The Research Councils UK (RCUK) Open Access policy: what it means for you

A short summary of the key points from the RCUK Open Access policy, effective 1st April 2013. For full details, you can read the whole RCUK policy and related FAQs. The policy only applies to RCUK-funded research output.

Please note that RCUK has now become part of UKRI - UK Research and Innovation.

What is the new policy?

  • The key change requires that researchers “publish any peer-reviewed research papers which acknowledge Research Council funding in journals that are compliant with the RCUK policy on Open Access. All papers must include details of the funding that supported the research and, if applicable, a statement on how the underlying research materials – such as data, samples or models – can be accessed.” Compliant journals are those which allow either Green and/or Gold open access.

What types of publication does the policy cover?

  • All peer-reviewed research and review articles normally published in academic journals or conference proceedings, and which acknowledge Research Council funding. The policy does not cover monographs, books, critical editions, volumes and catalogues, or forms of non-peer-reviewed material.”

What else has changed?

  • RCUK research grant and fellowship applications with start dates on or after 1st April 2013 are no longer permitted to include provision for Gold Open Access publication or other publication charges. Instead, RCUK now allocates a per-annum block grant to each institution.

My research falls into the appropriate category. What are my options?

  • Gold OA is a paid option (via an APC or Article Processing Charge), through which journals make output available immediately and indefinitely on their web sites. The output must also be licensed for non-commercial reuse at minimum. RCUK has a preference for immediate open access with the maximum opportunity for reuse where possible.
  • Green OA is free, through institutional repositories such as BIROn, and is equally compliant in meeting RCUK's Open Access targets. The output must be similarly licensed for non-commercial reuse. Embargoes on access to the full-text may apply.
  • The College has no policy on which option should be pursued but encourages researchers to publish in the outlet, which is most appropriate for their research. You can view a decision tree outlining your options. Ultimately, all outputs should end up on BIROn. With Gold, BIROn is able to reuse the final, published version. With Green, it's rare for this to be permitted, so we prefer the Author’s Accepted Manuscript (AAM). For more information on drafts and how we can use them, or more general information on BIROn, please see the deposit FAQ.

I've decided to go Green

What does an embargo entail?

  • Journals usually require an embargo on access to the full-text of articles (even where the version made available is not the final published one).
  • To comply with the RCUK policy, journals must require an embargo of, at maximum, 6 months in STEM disciplines and 12 months in Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.
  • Assuming a compliant journal, the metadata about the publication becomes available immediately, but the full-text is locked for the embargo period. This is made possible by our Immediate Deposit/Optional Access mandate.

How can I deposit in BIROn?

  • To get started, please visit the BIROn pages.

I've decided to go Gold

Who administers the fund?

  • Researchers wishing to use the RCUK block grant will need to contact the Research Grants and Contracts Office. RGCO does not arbitrate what can and cannot be funded, nor place any restriction on access to the fund, as long as the applicants and outputs qualify (i.e. are RCUK-funded and accepted for publication after 1st April 2013). However, any funds specified for APCs within grants awarded prior to 1st April 2013 should be used before applying for funds from the RCUK block grant.

    Can I use the fund to make old outputs Open Access?

    • The new policy only applies to outputs submitted for publication from 1st April 2013. We anticipate that these publications will exhaust the funding.

    What happens when the money runs out?

    • The fund is currently distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. Once the annual funding is spent, no more will be available until the next financial year. If you wish to publish via Gold in the interrim, you should seek alternative funds in consultation with your executive Dean, or use BIROn and comply via the Green route.

    Can I use the fund if my research is not RCUK-funded?

    • Only authors of current RCUK-funded research are eligible.

    If a publisher doesn’t comply, can I still submit to them?

    • Some publishers do not yet comply with RCUK’s Open Access requirements (either Green or Gold). Publishing with them will not count towards meeting RCUK’s target (45% in the first year, 53% in the second and 100% by the fifth).  However, you are encouraged to publish in the best and most appropriate outlets available. Decisions about what these are lie with you. You should primarily publish according to academic merit, not APC cost or open access compliance. Publishers who do not comply today may transition towards this over the next five years.
    • Tools to enable informed decisions are available: the SHERPA project has developed FACT (Funders & Authors Compliance Tool) to enable you to determine if your intended publisher complies with the RCUK open access policy. Simply choose your funder, search for a journal/publisher, and the system shows if their policies comply.

    What if we don’t comply?

    • RCUK monitor compliance, and also require a short financial report from the college outlining expenditure across publishers. Failing to comply will likely lead to a significant loss of funding. However, RCUK understands that these changes will not happen overnight. This is why they have built in relatively low (but rising) targets for compliance, starting at 45%. It is felt that a majority of researchers and journals will become OA compliant to RCUK standards over the course of the five year transition period. Reviews will be conducted to assess the ongoing impact.

    Who can I contact?

    • General Open Access enquiries should be directed to Paul Rigg in the library e-services team.
    • Enquiries around research funding should be directed to in Research Grants and Contracts.