Together we are stronger: charities join forces to support open access

book-92771_1280A consortium of six leading UK medical research charities will support the costs of making research articles from their funded research immediately and freely openly available to scientists, patients, and donors alike, through the recently announced joint Charity Open Access Fund. David Carr of the Wellcome Trust, Sanjay Thakrar of the British Heart Foundation and Matt Kaiser of Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research explain how this new partnership came about.

As charitable funders of medical research, we are dedicated to maximizing the societal benefits that flow from the research we fund. We know that making research publications openly available ensures that the knowledge and data they contain can be more widely accessed, corroborated and used to advance research and accelerate benefits to patients.

As charities supported by public donations, open access enables our donors, as well as the broader public, to directly access the outputs of the research they generously support. Many of our supporters are patients and carers who are interested in and engaged with research into their diseases, so access to high-quality contemporary medical research is a boon. And this goes for doctors and healthcare professionals who treat and care for them.

Many journals use open access models, where scientists pay an article-processing charge (APC) up front, and in return, their research articles are freely available upon publication with a licence that permits re-use. This meets our desire for immediate open access, but we need a sustainable and cost-effective model to ensure that the costs of publication are met.

With this in mind, Arthritis Research UK, Breast Cancer Campaign, the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research and the Wellcome Trust came together earlier this year. With the support of the UK Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC), we considered how we could join forces to ensure that our researchers can access funds to publish their work in open access form.Reasearch work

The resulting Charity Open Access Fund (COAF) will provide block grants to 36 UK research institutions to cover APCs for research articles supported by one or more of the six partner charities. The partners have agreed consistent open access policies and committed around £12 million to COAF for a two-year pilot, commencing on 1 October 2014.

Through coming together in this way, we aim to reduce the administrative burden both on our funded institutions and on the individual partner charities, and to provide a consistent funding approach for our research communities. We hope that other AMRC charities will join the COAF as partners in the future.

We have been clear that this new funding comes with expectations on publishers to provide high quality services, value for money, and greater transparency around their business models.  In particular, we will look to publishers with hybrid open access models to be able to demonstrate that universities are not paying twice to access content through APCs and subscriptions. We will also work with universities to help ensure that any savings they make on journal subscriptions are used to support open access fees.

We hope that the COAF will play a role in accelerating the uptake of open access, and demonstrates just how important we feel this is to maximising the value of research funded by the charitable sector.

David Carr is a Policy Adviser at the Wellcome Trust; Sanjay Thakrar is a Research Adviser at the British Heart Foundation; Matt Kaiser is Head of Research at Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research


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