Policy statements: what the main UK research funders have to say
This section brings together the statements about open access which have informed the development of the UK Scholarly Communications model policy and licence under the following headings:
- About Open Access to publicly funded research
- Incentivising openness – going beyond minimum compliance
- Defining open and Re-use criteria
- Funders on licenses and embargo periods
- Funders on the transition towards open science
- Funders on researcher copyright and rights retention
- Funders on the question of Green or Gold Open Access
- Funders on the risks of policy abuse
Free and open access to the outputs of publicly‐funded research offers significant social and economic benefits as well as aiding the development of new research. The Government, in line with its overarching commitment to transparency and open data, is committed to ensuring that published research findings should be freely accessible. As bodies charged with investing public money in research, the Research Councils take very seriously their responsibilities in making the outputs from this research publicly available – not just to other researchers, but also to potential users in business, charitable and public sectors, and to the general tax‐paying public.
RCUK Policy on Open Access and Supporting Guidance: Introduction (i)
The four UK higher education funding bodies believe that research arising from our funding should be as widely and freely accessible as the available channels for dissemination allow. Open access to research enables the prompt and widespread dissemination of research findings. It benefits the efficiency of the research process and allows publicly funded research to drive economic growth. It delivers social benefits through increased public understanding of research.
Where a higher education institution (HEI) can demonstrate that it has taken steps towards enabling open access for outputs outside the scope of this definition, credit will be given in the research environment component of REF 2021.
However, where an HEI can demonstrate that outputs are presented in a form that allows re-use of the work, including via text-mining, credit will be given in the research environment component of REF 2021.
[The} Environment template will include a section on ‘open research’ which should detail the submitting unit’s open access strategy, including where this goes beyond the REF OA policy requirements . . .
The intent of the REF OA policy is to provide a set of minimum requirements for OA, while providing an environment where researchers and HEIs can choose to move beyond the minimum requirements. This may include:
Enabling open access for outputs beyond the scope of the minimum policy requirements
Licencing of content that allow use beyond the minimum of ‘search within the text, read it and download it without charge’
Embargo periods that are shorter than the maxima set by the policy.
RCUK defines Open Access as unrestricted, on‐line access to peer‐reviewed and published research papers. Specifically a user must be able to do the following free of any access charge: · Read published papers in an electronic format; · Search for and re‐use the content of published papers both manually and using automated tools (such as those for text and data mining) provided that any such re‐use is subject to full and proper attribution and does not infringe any copyrights to third‐party material included in the paper.
The output must be presented in a form that allows anyone with internet access to search electronically within the text, read it and download it without charge, while respecting any constraints on timing
It is our long-term expectation that further sorts of reuse beyond this minimum will become increasingly possible, which is why we are seeking information in the REF2021 environment template about where a unit goes beyond the REF policy requirements (see paragraph 34 of the open access policy and FAQ 7.1).
RCUK will accept a delay of no more than six months between on‐line publication and the final Accepted Manuscript becoming Open Access. In the case of papers in the arts, humanities and social sciences (which will mainly be funded by the AHRC and the ESRC), the maximum embargo period will be twelve months.
RCUK Policy on Open Access and Supporting Guidance: Compliance of journals
What licenses are compliant with the RCUK OA policy?
Gold – (immediate open access): Where an APC is paid, it is a requirement that the licence applied is CC-BY
ii) Green – (deposit of the final accepted manuscript in a repository, usually with an embargo): The RCUK preference is for CC-BY, however, the formal requirement is that the licence places no restriction on non-commercial reuse, including non-commercial text- and data-mining. The licence should also allow for the sharing of adaptations of the material. This means a CC-BY-NC licence, or equivalent is acceptable. A CC-BY-NC-ND licence is not compliant.
Ideally, a research paper should become Open Access as soon as it is published on‐line. However, RCUK recognises that, in the green model of open access, embargo periods are currently used by some journals with business models that depend on generating revenue through journal subscriptions. Therefore, where a journal does not offer an immediate Open Access option, RCUK will accept a delay between on‐line publication and a paper becoming Open Access of no more than six months, in STEM disciplines.
Because six‐month embargo periods can be particularly difficult in the arts, humanities and social sciences (which are mainly funded by the AHRC and the ESRC), RCUK will accept a delay of up to twelve months for such articles. RCUK wishes to work towards enabling a maximum embargo period of six months for all research papers, but recognises that the pace of change may vary by discipline.
RCUK recognises that the journey to full Open Access is a process and not a single event and therefore it expects compliance to grow over a transition period anticipated to be five years;
RCUK Policy on Open Access and Supporting Guidance: Introduction/Key points to note
RCUK recognises that copyright in the manuscript itself normally remains with the author, as reflected in the historical right and tradition of authors to publish online manuscript versions of their papers even before submission, and this will continue.
RCUK Policy on Open Access and Supporting Guidance: Compliance of journals
The Accepted Manuscript is also known as the Author’s Manuscript, the Author’s Accepted Manuscript or as the Postprint. It is also worth noting that it is normal for authors to retain copyright of their Accepted Manuscript, and we expect this to continue.
We further recommend that institutions fully consider the extent to which they currently retain or transfer the copyright of works published by their researchers, as part of creating a healthy research environment.
There are various models for achieving open access, some of which allow more immediate access. RCUK has a preference for immediate, unrestricted, on‐line access to peer‐reviewed and published research papers, free of any access charge and with maximum opportunities for re‐use. This is commonly referred to as the ‘gold’ route to Open Access. We are supporting this preference with block grants to eligible research organisations in order to fund the associated article processing charges (APCs). Although this is our preference, we allow a mixed approach to Open Access; and the decision on which model to follow remains at the discretion of the researchers and their research organisations.
Do researchers have the freedom to choose the green route even if the publisher offers a ‘gold’ route? UPDATED
Yes: although the Research Councils’ preference is for immediate unrestricted open access (‘Gold’), they support a mixed approach to Open Access, and the decision on which route to follow remains at the discretion of the researchers and their research organisations.
RCUK has a preference for immediate, unrestricted OA (Gold) and has an expectation that the majority of the OA block grant funding it provides will be used to support the payment of APCs for Gold. However, RCUK also expect research organisations to stay within the cash limits of the grant, so where demand is high, this may require research organisations to balance out what is published via the Gold and Green Routes.
Where Open Access is achieved through deposit of the final Accepted Manuscript in a repository (the ‘Green’ route) in order to maximise the opportunities for access to and re‐use of repository content, the Research Councils would like research papers to be made available using the most liberal and enabling licences, ideally CC BY. However, the RCUK policy requires only that the manuscript is made available without restriction on non‐commercial re‐use. The policy does not specify a particular licence, and the requirement can be met by use of the Creative Commons Attribution‐non‐commercial licence (CC BY NC). Publisher‐specific licences are acceptable providing they support the aims of the policy, and allow re‐use including non‐commercial text and data mining.
Do I need to publish in open access journals to be eligible for the REF?
No. The policy allows authors to comply via either the green or the gold route. The basic policy requirement is that papers are deposited in a repository, and almost all journals and conferences already allow authors to make an open-access deposit of some version of their paper in a repository (often the accepted manuscript or a version of the paper at least equivalent to the final peer-reviewed text).
If we see evidence that publishers and authors are seeking to circumvent these rules by taking disproportionate advantage of the policy’s exceptions, we will revisit these provisions with the intention of removing them.