Shaping our open access policy

UKRI announced its new open access policy in August 2021. The UKRI open access policy applies to:

  • peer-reviewed research articles submitted for publication from 1 April 2022
  • monographs, book chapters and edited collections published from 1 January 2024.

Here you will find information on:

  • activities we will be undertaking to support the implementation of our new policy
  • some background on the activities that informed the policy, including an explanation of our policy decisions.

Implementing our open access policy

Our new open access policy was announced in August 2021 and we are now working to support its implementation. As part of that we are committed to working collaboratively with research performing organisations, researchers, publishers and other relevant stakeholders in order to support the policy in practice.

We’ve set out some of the key commitments and dates for further implementation milestones. This will continue to be updated as work progresses.

Open access funding

UKRI is providing up to £46.7 million per year to support the implementation of the policy. This substantially increased funding is in recognition that this is required to meet the new policy intent, as well as the extension of the policy to monographs.

Whilst most of the funding will be to research organisations to support open access research articles, there will be dedicated funding for supporting actions including to Jisc in support of sector open access negotiations, with guidance and infrastructure to aid uptake of UKRI compliant open access options. The funding also includes a ring-fenced amount of approximately £3.5 million annually to support research organisations in implementing open access monographs, from 2024.

Research articles and monographs

For funding for research articles, we will continue to fund via a block grant mechanism to research organisations.

For monographs, funding will be a centralised fund held by UKRI that organisations will apply for.

In terms of who will be eligible to receive open access funding, the same principle as is the case currently will apply, in that organisations eligible to apply for research funding from UKRI will be eligible to receive open access funding.

A wide range of eligible costs will be allowed, however, there will be some specific exclusions. One exclusion relates to funding for research articles, where the cost of hybrid open access publishing in subscription journals will not be eligible unless part of a Jisc-approved transitional arrangement.

There are still some aspects we need to consider further, and we will clarify the terms and conditions of funding for research articles by November 2021. The terms and conditions for funding for monographs will be made available in the third quarter of 2022.

Block grant funding for research articles: allocations to research organisations

We will provide further details on the how these will be calculated and notify research organisations their block grant allocation for 2022-2023 by no later than December 2021.

Whilst the exact algorithm is still being developed, it will be based on the same principle as the algorithm for the block grant that supports the current RCUK policy, that is, research volume.

Monitoring and evaluation

Monitoring and evaluation is crucial to delivering UKRI’s ambition for open access because it provides an evidence base to support effective decision making and is our means of ensuring the policy delivers on its aims.

We will monitor the policy continuously from its implementation, and there will be formal review points, the first of which will be within two years of the policy start date for both articles and monographs. Our approach will be to learn and build our evidence base, and review points will not necessarily mean a change in direction.

Working with the sector we will develop a monitoring and evaluation framework to assess the efficiency and effectiveness of the policy, along with a timetable, and will give further details by November 2021. A key focus will be to use automated approaches and existing data sources.

In terms of what research organisations must report to us, generally the quality and comparability of existing data sources has improved and so we will reduce our requirements.

We will no longer seek reporting on the compliance of individual research articles, and we intend to move reporting on open access funding to standard grant reporting with no additional requirements. Usual funding assurance processes will also apply for open access funding.

Full details on reporting requirements for articles will be provided by December 2021. Further information on the reporting requirements for monographs will be made available in the third quarter of 2022.

As part of our monitoring and evaluation framework we may seek to understand the level of compliant publications at an institutional level, to help inform monitoring compliance of research organisations with the policy. Our approach for assessing compliance will be to understand whether research organisations have taken reasonable steps to implement the policy.

Metadata guidance

In our policy some metadata requirements for research articles are set out, however, further information is required to aid implementation. When we announced the policy, we made a commitment to publish an update in October 2021.

UKRI has commissioned an independent analysis of the metadata landscape, which shows that currently it does not fully support implementation of the requirements set out in the open access policy.

We will use the findings of this analysis to help us set reasonable expectations for meeting the metadata requirements as well as monitoring progress. The analysis will also help inform what actions UKRI and its stakeholders can take to improve the metadata landscape, therefore further supporting the transition to open access.

We will provide further information on our approach to meeting the metadata requirements, as well supporting actions to improve the metadata landscape before the end of the year.

Policy exceptions

There is a case-by-case exception for research articles where a no-derivatives (ND) license may be allowed. When we announced the policy, we committed to publishing further information on the approach for managing this exception in October 2021.

The objectives of the exception are to ensure stakeholders give due consideration to restricting opportunities for sharing and reusing publicly funded research, and to gather evidence to demonstrate issues arising from a more open license, to inform future policies.

To meet these objectives, we will require research organisations and authors to apply to UKRI for an exception with justification. It is our intention for the process to be light-touch and aligned with other funders as far as possible.

We held a workshop with stakeholders to better understand when a ND licence may be needed and what information UKRI might need to gather as part of a request for an exception. Further to this we are now designing the details of the process.

We also explored how an exception will interact with publication workflows and what actions UKRI can take to support implementation and help research organisations and authors make informed decisions about using an ND licence. We heard that there is a need for further guidance around licensing and how a ND licence works and information about the protections it offers. We will now work with stakeholders to meet this need.

We will provide further information on the process for managing the ND licence exception and associated supporting actions in November 2021.

The policy for monographs includes a range of exceptions, for example around the use of third-party materials. Further work is required to aid implementation. We will develop our approach for managing these exceptions, working collaboratively with stakeholders, and provide an update in the second quarter of 2022.

Open access options and transitional agreements

We’re supporting the scaling up of transitional open access agreements and other arrangements for a range of publishers and research performing organisations.

In order to support the transition to open access in a sustainable way, and to seek options to be available to a wide range of publishers, researchers and research organisations, we are providing a grant to Jisc. This will enable them to increase their engagement and negotiations to provide compliant open access agreements and options, and to provide guidance and tools alongside this.

Transitional journals are one of the routes that we will support, subject to meeting the sector’s requirements. As part of our grant to Jisc they are working to establish requirements in consultation with the sector and aim to release these in December 2021.

Further details on Jisc’s role in supporting implementation of the UKRI open access policy (PDF, 170KB) were published in September 2021.

Communications and engagement

Working with stakeholders, co-designing open access activities, sharing information and partnering on implementation of the policy is key. When we announced the policy, we committed to providing further details in October 2021 about how we will work with stakeholders on policy implementation.

During September and October, we held a series of discussions with stakeholder groups to understand their perspectives on implementation as well as practical considerations and how we can work together to make the policy a success. These conversations have been valuable in developing our approach.

We will continue to engage with stakeholders to work through some of the more detailed practicalities of policy implementation and will establish appropriate groups or work via established forums to facilitate this. As part of this we will work collaboratively to deliver advice, guidance and other resources and support for implementation of the UKRI policy as well as open access more generally, through understanding the challenges and sharing and developing good practice.

Whilst UKRI will directly deliver some of these resources and support, we anticipate for some topics it will be more appropriate for others to take the lead, and we will work in partnership to do this. We will provide an update on this set of activities later in 2021.

A priority for successful implementation of the open access policy is to have effective, targeted engagement with researchers, to ensure they are prepared for policy changes. Our approach will be to work with research organisations and sector bodies to develop resources that research organisations can use to engage researchers in a way which is appropriate for their institutional context. This activity is underway, and we will make key resources available in January 2022.

In the longer term, UKRI wants to continue engaging and working closely with the sector to support the successful implementation of the policy and wider adoption of open access. In early 2022 we will establish an external stakeholder forum for this purpose. We will provide further information later this year.

How we decided our open access policy

The UKRI open access policy was determined by the UKRI open access review, which took place from autumn 2018 to summer 2021.

To understand the changes to our policy and how decisions were made see UKRI open access policy: explanation of policy changes.

UKRI open access review

The UKRI open access review sought to review UKRI’s existing open access policies and recommend an updated single open access policy for UKRI and all its councils.

The review included extensive engagement with stakeholders, including via meetings and public consultation. UKRI wishes to thank all stakeholders who contributed to the review.

Key activities undertaken by the review included:

The review was overseen by UKRI Executive Champions for Open Research, Professor Sir Duncan Wingham and David Sweeney. A steering group included senior representation from across UKRI and representation from the UK higher education funding bodies. The Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and Wellcome were observers.

The review reported to UKRI’s Board and Executive Committee and the Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation.

Ask about the new UKRI open access policy and UKRI open access review


Last updated: 5 November 2021

NOTE Council web content is being transitioned to this website – let us know if you have feedback or would like to help us test new developments.