Open access research

‘Open access’ refers to unrestricted, online access to the published findings of research. In our role as a national funding body for research, we are committed to supporting successful approaches to open access publishing and increasing public access to research findings.

HEFCE Open Access Policy

Academics at UK institutions are covered by many funder open access policies. In particular, eligibility criteria have been published for the Research Excellence Framework 2021 exercise – REF2021. HEFCE updated its FAQ document on 1 September 2017. Section 7 of that document now reads:

The REF initial decisions published 1 September 2017 (paragraph 29) notes that 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, and wider activity to encourage the effective sharing and management of research data. This decision was based on responses to the recent consultation on the next REF. REF panels will set out further guidance on the ‘open research’ element of the environment template in the panel criteria which will be developed next year.

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:

1. Enabling open access for outputs beyond the scope of the minimum policy requirements

2. Licencing of content that allow use beyond the minimum of ‘search within the text, read it and download it without charge’

3. Embargo periods that are shorter than the maxima set by the policy.

Adoption of the UK-SCL benefits universities by:

  • Enabling academic retention of re-use rights and timely communication of the findings of publicly funded research
  • Ensuring academics can continue to publish in the journal of their choice irrespective of whether the journal allows open access or not
  • Providing a single means by which authors can comply with RCUK, HEFCE and other “green policies”. See here for a list of funders for which the UK-SCL enables compliance with deposit criteria.
  • Significantly reducing reliance on exceptions to ensure outputs remain eligible for REF2021
  • Removing the need for authors of negotiate with publishers directly
  • Reducing costs for compliance and REF eligibility