UK government stands up for open access with a £10 million funding boost


In line with the UK government’s commitment to free and open access to publicly-funded research, Universities and Science Minister David Willetts recently announced a £10 million cash injection to the top 30 UK research-intensive institutions, to aid the transition to open access and compliance with the new Research Council UK Open Access Policy.

As the pioneer of open access publishing and the largest open access publishers with over 300 journals across STM, BioMed Central, ChemistryCentral and Springer through SpringerOpen and Springer Open Choice, are delighted by the steps the  government and RCUK are taking in supporting open access and increasing the visibility of the UK’s research output.

Speaking at the British Science Festival in Aberdeen at the beginning of September, David Willetts said: “This extra £10 million investment will help some of our universities move across to the open access model. This will usher in a new era of academic discovery and keep the UK at the forefront of research to drive innovation and growth.”

The new RCUK OA policy launched on the 16 July 2012 states that all peer-reviewed published research articles and conference proceedings funded by the RCUK must be open access from 1 April 2013 (although researchers are encouraged to begin OA publishing as soon as possible).

The RCUK will still support a mixed approach to open access via ‘green’ and ‘gold’ OA routes (as stated in a RCUK blog RCUK Open Access Policy – When to go Green and When to go Gold, by Mark Thorley, Chair RCUK Research Outputs Network), however they strongly endorse the ‘gold’ option.  The rationale behind this can be found in another recent RCUK blog post by Mark Thorley, RCUK Open Access Policy – Our Preference for Gold, and explains that the policy aims to make it simpler for UK institutions and researchers to publish in open access journals using the ‘gold’ OA model, including paying for Article Processing Charges (APCs) through block grants to UK Higher Education institutions, approved independent research organizations, and Research Council Institutes.

Mark Thorley states, “A journal is compliant with our policy if it provides Gold OA using the CC-BY licence, and RCUK will provide funds to institutions to cover payment of APCs.  However, if a journal is not prepared to offer a Gold CC-BY option, it can achieve compliance by offering a specific Green option which must meet the following requirements… ”

The RCUK OA policy and the Finch Report, together with this additional £10 million government funding announcement, signals significant developments for the open access movement in the UK, further ensuring that the results of UK research are made openly available for all.

BioMed CentralChemistryCentral, SpringerOpen and Springer Open Choice are working closely with these UK institutions to set up Membership accounts to help manage publication visibility and provide discounts that will further extend the benefits of this extra funding.

If you are interested in finding out more about the RCUK policy and the implementation for these new funding schemes within BioMed CentralChemistryCentral, SpringerOpen and Springer Open Choice please get in touch.

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One Comment

Stevan Harnad


It it not at all clear the Finch Report “further ensur[es] that the results of UK research are made openly available for all.”

In June 2012, the UK Finch Committee made the following statement:

“The [Green OA] policies of neither research funders nor universities themselves have yet had a major effect in ensuring that researchers make their publications accessible in institutional repositories…” 

We have now tested the Finch Committee’s Hypothesis that Green Open Access Mandates are ineffective in generating deposits in institutional repositories. With data from ROARMAP on institutional Green OA mandates and data from ROAR on institutional repositories, we show that deposit number and rate is significantly correlated with mandate strength (classified as 1-12): The stronger the mandate, the more the deposits. The strongest mandates generate deposit rates of 70%+ within 2 years of adoption, compared to the un-mandated deposit rate of 20%. The effect is already detectable at the national level, where the UK, which has the largest proportion of Green OA mandates, has a national OA rate of 35%, compared to the global baseline of 25%. The conclusion is that, contrary to the Finch Hypothesis, Green Open Access Mandates do have a major effect, and the stronger the mandate, the stronger the effect (the Liege ID/OA mandate, linked to research performance evaluation, being the strongest mandate model). RCUK (as well as all universities, research institutions and research funders worldwide) would be well advised to adopt the strongest Green OA mandates and to integrate institutional and funder mandates.

Gargouri Y, Lariviere V, Gingras Y, Brody T, Carr L & Harnad S (2012) Testing the Finch Hypothesis on Green OA Mandate Ineffectiveness Open Access Week 2012

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