Skip to main content

Open research policy

Read our accompanying guidance to the Open Research policy.

1. Background

1.1 In 1823, the College's founder Dr George Birkbeck set out his vision, 'now is the time for universal benefits of the blessings of knowledge'. That statement continues to underpin the mission and culture of the institution, driving the connections and partnerships Birkbeck has made between work, study, culture, research, and society.

1.2 Open research expects that 'knowledge of all kinds should be openly shared as early as it is practical in the discovery process'. In addition to opening access to research findings, outputs and outcomes, it embodies opening up as much as is practical underpinning data, data sources, and protocols and making appropriate use of open IP tools such as open source software and open licences.

2. Open researchers

2.1 ORCIDs (Open Researcher and Contributor IDs) have been developed to aid researcher identification and support research transparency. ORCID IDs are persistent identifier codes that uniquely identify individual researchers. The benefits of an ORCID iD to an individual researcher are:

  • You will be distinguished from every other researcher, even researchers who share your same name.
  • Your research outputs and activities will be correctly attributed to you.
  • Your contributions and affiliations will be reliably and easily connected to you.
  • You will enjoy improved discoverability and recognition.
  • You will be able to connect your record to institutions, funders, and publishers.

2.2 The College requires all researchers from the College (i.e. researchers employed by the College and research students supervised by the College) to have and to use an ORCID ID, and to be proactive in terms of putting their research findings in the public domain.

3. Open access research publications

3.1 All research outputs produced by researchers from the College (i.e. by researchers employed by the College and research produced by research students supervised by the College) should be deposited in our institutional repository, BIROn.

3.2 Paragraphs 3.4 to 3.8 inclusive relate specifically to the following types of research publication produced:

  • Short-form outputs:
    • Peer-reviewed journal articles accepted for publication in a journal or by an online publishing platform that publishes original work (rather than a platform which aggregates and/or republishes content). This includes peer-reviewed secondary data publications such as review articles.
    • Peer-reviewed conference papers accepted for publication in a journal, conference proceeding with an ISSN, or by an online publishing platform that publishes original work.
  • Long-form outputs:
    • Book chapters bearing an ISBN, including chapters in academic books arising from conferences
    • Academic monographs, including academic monographs which have more than one author
    • Edited collections, where the requirements relate to the complete collection.

3.3 Other types of research publication (such as may derive from outputs from contract research and consultancy agreements) are beyond the scope of this policy. However, the College would encourage anyone publishing with an affiliation to the College to consider if it is appropriate to follow this policy for any other forms of research outputs.

Pre-print services (such as arxiv) are also out of scope of this policy. However, the College acknowledges the value of such servers in supporting open research practices and encourages our researchers to use such services where these services are available in the given discipline. The value of pre-print services has been demonstrated by the recent COVID-19 pandemic and the College reserves the right to require our researchers to use such services in the event of emergencies.

3.4 Any in scope short-form output must be published:

  • in a fully open access journal or online platform that makes the version of record immediately available at the point of first publication, with a CC BY licence on its website in a format that is free and unrestricted to view and download, and meets technical standard which facilitate access, discovery, and re-use of the research. This includes subscription journals where the College has signed up to a transformative agreement.


  • in a subscription journal which allows either the Version of Record or the Authors Accepted Manuscript (AAM) to be deposited in a suitable repository under a CC BY licence at the point of first publication. The deposit must be in a format which is free and unrestricted to view and download, and meets technical standard which facilitate access, discovery, and re-use of the research. In these cases, the researcher must also include the following statement in the funding acknowledgement section and in any letter or cover note accompanying the submission: 'for the purposes of open access, the author has applied a CC BY public copyright licence to any author accepted manuscript version arising from this submission'. The College undertakes to ensure that its repositories comply with the necessary technical standards referenced above.

For the avoidance of doubt, publisher requested 'embargo periods' between the point of first publication and making the deposit available via the repository are not compliant with this policy.

It should be noted that many funders who sponsor biomedical research (including Wellcome Trust, BBSRC and MRC) also require that the outputs are made freely available under the same terms on PubMed Central and/or Europe PubMed Central.

3.5 In order to be compliant with this policy, for any in-scope long-form output:

  • The final Version of Record or Author Accepted Manuscript (AAM) must be free to view via an online publication platform, publisher's website or institutional repository within a maximum of 12 months of publication, with a CC BY licence, in a format that is free and unrestricted to view and download, and meets technical standards which facilitate access, discovery, and re-use of the research. The College undertakes that our institutional repository, BIROn, will meet these technical standards.
  • Where possible the open access version should include any images, illustrations, tables and other supporting contents. Where the author's accepted manuscript is deposited it should be clear in the manuscript that this is not the final published version.
  • The College encourages that, where possible, metadata standards and persistent identifiers should be applied to long-form outputs. However, this is not currently a requirement of this policy.

3.6 The CC BY licence must be used unless one or more of the following exceptions holds.

  • If the work is subject to Crown Copyright, an Open Government Licence is acceptable and considered to be compliant with this policy.
  • Occasionally, and on a case-by-case basis for short-form outputs, exceptions to this policy may be allowed where the output is published under the more restrictive no-derivatives licence (CC BY-ND). This is subject to approval by the PVC (Research) who will be supported in this decision making by the Chair of the Open Research Working Group.
  • Occasionally, and on a case-by-case basis for long-form outputs, exceptions to this policy may be allowed where the output is published under a different CC licence type. This is subject to approval by the PVC (Research) who will be supported in this decision making by the Chair of the Open Research Working Group.

3.7 Under the terms of this policy, articles which include third-party copyright material are compliant even if stricter licencing terms are applied to the third-party copyright material. An exception to the policy will be granted if it can be shown that it was not possible to obtain re-use permission and there was no suitable alternative to enable open access publication (for example, it renders the publication unintelligible to redact these materials from the open access version).

3.8 All research outputs covered by this policy must include a Data Access Statement which informs readers where the underlying research materials associated with the output are available and how these can be accessed, including a link to a dataset if appropriate. Underlying research materials can include (but are not limited to) code, software, numerical scores, textual records, images, sounds, objects, manuscripts etc. as well as experimental datasets.

4. Open Research Data

4.1 This policy relates to research data produced by researchers employed by the College and research students under supervision by the College. It recognises the value of research data as a resource both to the originating researcher(s) and to subsequent researchers for data re-use and meta-analysis. However, as a core part of this policy it is acknowledged that creators of research data have a right to reasonable first use.

4.2 Where it is appropriate to the research being undertaken, it is the responsibility of the lead researcher that an appropriate research data management plan is created, and for ensuring that all members of the research team are aware of, understand, and abide by the plan. It is the responsibility of the lead researcher to ensure that the research data is only deposited into a repository at the point in the research cycle where it is appropriate to do so, and that the data is stored, processed, curated and managed appropriately until to this point.

4.3 This policy requires all researchers and research students to manage their underlying research materials and research data throughout the research lifecycle and, where necessary, for these materials to be curated before being made available as described in the data access statement (see paragraph 3.7). All relevant data must be deposited into a suitable repository on or before the first publication date of the corresponding output. All data should be subject to a licence which allows others to copy, distribute, transmit and adapt work under the condition that the user must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests they endorse the user or their use of the work), for example a CC BY licence.

4.4 Use of others' data should always conform to legal, ethical and regulatory frameworks including appropriate acknowledgement.

4.5 Requests by third parties to access research data listed in the Data Access Statement should be facilitated, including research data that is not generated in digital format which should be stored in a manner to facilitate it being shared.

4.6 Research data and research data sets which can be shared openly should be stored either in a recognised subject repository or in the College's Research Data Repository (BiRD) and the metadata made openly available.

4.7 Where the nature of the data is such that access restrictions need to be applied (for example, the data includes identifiable personal data, the data is sensitive or confidential, the data is commercially sensitive or has commercial potential, or you do not own the rights to publish the data), these restrictions should be managed within the repository where it is possible to do so. If restrictions need to be applied and this cannot be managed within the relevant repository, the researcher should take advice from the College's Research Data Support Manager and a metadata record should be created which provides the necessary information, as listed in paragraph 4.8.

4.8 Structured metadata describing the research data should be made freely accessible on the internet (e.g. through BiRD); in each case the metadata must be sufficient to allow others to understand what research data exists, why, when and how it was generated, and how to access it. Where access to the data is restricted, the published metadata should also give the reason and summarise the conditions which must be satisfied for access to be granted.

5. Open IP

5.1 The College mission is underpinned by the belief in the value of knowledge, and the College will strive to licence its IP in such a way that it is accessible for others to use and to derive benefit from.

5.2 In recognition that the College is a charitable institution that needs to respect provisions under charities law, and as a body in receipt of public funds and funds from other charitable bodies, where an external entity seeks to derive financial gain from IP developed within the College the College will strive to agree terms with the external entity which recognise the financial investment made by the College and our funders in developing the IP. Where possible within these restrictions, the College will not normally seek to derive immediate financial benefit from the exploitation of its IP for immediate humanitarian benefit.

5.3 In cases where an external entity seeks to derive other benefits from IP generated within the College which will not result in direct financial gain to the external entity, the College will seek to facilitate the use if its IP effectively. Thus, on the basis of paragraphs 5.1 and 5.2 of this policy, in many cases the CC BY-NC licence is the most appropriate licence for the dissemination of research findings which fall outside sections 3 and 4 of this policy.

5.4 Where an agreement is reached where the College derives financial benefit from commercially exploiting some of our IP, the stipulations laid out in our IP Code of Practice will be followed.