The new Research Councils UK (RCUK) Open Access policy: what it means for you
A short summary of the key points of and changes to the new RCUK open access policy, effective 1st April 2013. For full details, you can read the whole FAQs. The policy only applies to RCUK-funded research output.and related
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. Birkbeck has received £50,998 for 2013/14 and will receive £59,997 for 2014/15. Given that some journals charge between £2,000 and £5,000 per article, this could run out very quickly.
My research falls into the appropriate category. What are my options?
- Gold OA is a paid option (through 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 our own 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 free to host the final, published version. With Green, it's rare for this to be permitted, so we prefer the author’s last accepted draft. 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 is available immediately, but the full-text will be 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 Liz Francis, Head of Research Grants and Contracts. Liz 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 using the RCUK OA 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?
- As noted, the fund allocated for 2013/14 could quickly run out. The fund is currently distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. Once the 2013/14 funding is spent, no more will be available until the 2014/15 financial year. If you wish to publish via Gold between these points, 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 with these factors in mind are available: the SHERPA project has developed FACT (Funders & Authors Compliance Tool) to enable you to determine if your intended publisher meets the required RCUK open access standard. Simply choose your funder, search for a journal/publisher, and the system shows if their policies comply with each other.
What if we don’t comply?
- RCUK will monitor compliance, and also expect a short financial report setting out expenditure by named 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 steadily 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. A UK-wide review will be conducted in 2014 in order to assess the ongoing impact.