RCUK Policy on Open Access – composite guidance

This blog post was written by James Lush, the Biochemical Society’s Policy Manager

Research Councils UK’s (RCUK) new open access policy, which comes in to effect in about three weeks’ time on 1 April, has been a source of some confusion. So it is welcome to see that today they published a guidance document and will take requests for further clarity on this over the next fortnight.

The document is available here (PDF).

The notes emphasise that the policy will be reviewed next year – including any significant problems arising, such as on the sustainability of Learned Societies – and that RCUK consider the next five years being a transitional period, with 100% compliance not expected in the short term. It also highlights that authors ought still to retain a great degree of freedom in their choice of where to publish. However, it emphasises throughout that RCUK’s preference is for articles to be published with immediate, gold open access, with as few restrictions on re-use as possible.

Some of the key points to note are:

  • This iteration of the policy does not mandate open access to research data. However, all papers must communicate how any applicable data and other underlying research information can be accessed.
  • The Research Councils plan to increase the funding available for open access over the five-year transitional period.
  • They expect a market for Article Processing Charges (APCs) to develop, with a nudge towards researchers and institutions to note that the REF does not use journal impact factors as an assessment tool.
  • Authors may publish by the green open access route if they wish, as long as the delay (embargo) between publication and open access does not exceed six months, or 12 months for arts, humanities and social sciences. However, during the transition period there is a caveat through which this may be extended:
    • Where researchers do not have access to APC funding for their preferred gold open access journal during the transition, they are encouraged to look at cheaper options in the first instance, followed by a green option with a compliant embargo policy. If there are no feasible options, the paper may be published in a 12 month embargo journal, or 24 months for arts, humanities and social sciences. This PowerPoint slide illustrates this.
    • The exception is biomedicine, as the MRC already mandates embargos of no longer than six months.
  • Where the gold route is used with Research Council funding, the paper must be freely available under a CC BY licence to allow maximum, attributed reuse. Where the green route is used, CC BY is preferred, but CC BY NC is allowable, as are publisher-specific policies that allow text and data mining and support RCUK’s key aims.
  • RCUK grant and fellowship awards which commence after the start date for the revised policy – 1 April 2013 – will not include funding for APCs.

First year of policy: 45% compliance targeted
Second year: 50%
Fifth year: 100%, with 75% delivered through immediate, gold open access and CC BY licencing.

To provide further input, you are invited to email Alexandra Saxon by Wednesday 20 March. Alternatively, you can contribute to the Society of Biology sectoral response by Wednesday 13 March, by emailing me.

This comes shortly after HEFCE published a letter (PDF) which calls for early input to help shape a formal consultation on the role of open access in post-2014 iterations of the Research Excellence Framework. HEFCE will develop the four UK funding bodies’ joint policy and state that they intend to make OA mandatory for submitted outputs. However, they do not intend to state a preference for gold over green open access. One of the questions on which they invite advice is whether it would be feasible to make open access to data a formal requirement too, although they state that while they expect to see progress in this area from REF 2014, they do not expect to make it a formal requirement yet. The deadline for responses to the letter is Monday 25 March. Once again, you can contribute to the Society of Biology sectoral response by Monday 18 March, by emailing me.

Finally, if you’ve made it this far, you may be interested to subscribe to the Society of Biology’s Research Communication Newsletter. The first edition can be found here and to subscribe you can email policy@societyofbiology.org

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