Open Access

In June 2012 the Working Group tasked by the Government with, ‘Expanding Access to Published Research Findings’ published their report, known as the Finch Report. The aim was to consider ‘how to expand and improve access to research publications for the benefit of all who have a stake or interest in research and its results.’ As a result of this report Research Councils UK (RCUK) revised its policy on Open Access (OA) replacing the positioning statement released in 2005 and revised in 2006. The new policy came into force in April 2013.

The policy covers all published, peer reviewed research papers that are normally published in scholarly journals, or conference proceedings that acknowledge funding from the UK’s Research Councils. The policy does not cover non-peer reviewed material, books or monographs.

Currently peer reviewed material is accessed at Higher Education (HE) institutions via subscriptions to journals. The new model suggests an alternative method of access. Information on research funders open access policies is available on Sherpa/Juliet

The policy applies to all RCUK Funding Councils:

Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)

Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)

Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

Medical Research Council (MRC)

Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)

Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC)

5.1 Definitions

Open Access means unrestricted, on-line access to peer reviewed and published scholarly research papers. Specifically a user must be able to do the following free of any publisher-imposed access charge:

  1. Read published research papers in an electronic format.
  2. Search for and re-use (including download) the content of published research papers both manually and using automated tools (such as those for text and data mining) provided that any such re-use is subject to proper attribution.

OA therefore allows unrestricted use of manual and automated text and data mining tools, as well as unrestricted re-use of content with proper attribution – as defined by the Creative Commons CC-BY license. The Research Councils acknowledge that some publications may need to amend their copyright conditions if they are to meet this definition of OA.

Article Processing Charge (APC)

An APC is an ‘article-processing charge, payable by an author, for publication of a peer-reviewed article in a commercial OA journal.’

The current volumes of APC transactions nationally are very low and as such few universities, or funders, are experienced in managing them. Some universities have centralised systems in place to manage block grant funds, generally those in receipt of Wellcome grant funds, as there is a need to collect the necessary data to comply with the funder’s requirements. A few universities have also set up a centralised Open Access Fund to make it possible for authors to publish in OA journals but demand to date from individual authors is low.

  • Green OA is where a version of a publication is made available free of charge to readers, often through an online repository. Journals typically impose embargo periods (of up to 18 months) on the placing of publications in such repositories to protect their subscription income and to secure a return on their investment. Both subject and institution repositories have been developed, and are particularly popular in certain subjects such as astrophysics. Some publishers will not allow the post print version to be achieved.
  • Gold OA is where published articles are made available immediately and free of charge to readers. In return the author (or their institution) pays an article processing charge (APC) to the publisher.
  • Hybrid OA is where a publisher allow authors to publish their paper in journals with subscriptions (and behind pay walls online) in the traditional way, or to pay an APC for it to be made available to readers free-of-charge, online, immediately.
  • OAK- Open Access Key (OAK) provides global workflow solutions to the academic publishing community to save time and cost and drive efficiencies. OAK offers clearing house management services specifically designed to facilitate the handling of publication charges (APCs). The web-based system tracks and records research output and expenditure while reducing the burden of administration for academic authors, research institutions, publishers and funders. Functionality includes consolidated payments, the ability to split APCs fairly and aiding compliance with repository submission policies.

Self-archiving - It is perfectly acceptable for an author to self-archive a pre-print (that is, before publication in a peer-reviewed journal) version of an article in an institutional or central open repository. Some publishers refuse to accept such articles for publication.

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