In February, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) launched an online Open Access Review Consultation inviting responses to its proposed OA policy by 12:00 PM, Friday 29 May 2020. For those who have not yet submitted their comments, there is still time to do so.

To facilitate discussion around the preparation of responses, Copyright Clearance Center hosted a webinar with esteemed OA experts in order to elaborate on the proposed policy’s requirements for research articles, monographs, book chapters and edited collections.

Facilitated by CCC’s Christopher Kenneally the webinar also addressed the proposed policy’s impact on other international initiatives, such as Plan S, and the implications for publishers and other stakeholders worldwide.

UKRI’s Open Access Policy — A Bumpy Ride

Rob Johnson, Founder and Director of Research Consulting, provided background on UKRI and its process for developing a unified OA policy.

UKRI was formed in April 2018 to bring together the seven Research Councils, Innovate UK and Research England. Its aim is to accelerate a sustainable transition to OA and to make public outputs of publicly funded research widely available and freely accessible under conditions that allow for maximum reuse.

As part of this, the UKRI is unifying two OA policies from the Research Councils UK (RCUK) and the Research Excellence Framework (REF) into a single OA policy, now under review and consultation.

Although progress has been made, the transition to OA has been slower than expected. Three factors have complicated UKRI’s OA policy review: Plan S was announced at about the same time and will be used by the UKRI as an input, not a mandate; Brexit overloaded capacity at all levels of government, research funders and universities; and the challenges of COVID-19 resulted in an extension on the consultation, which was originally set to close on April 17, 2020.

Core Elements – Articles and Monographs

David Prosser, Executive Director, Research Libraries UK (RLUK) provided insights into UKRI’s proposed OA policy.

For peer-reviewed research articles, the proposed policy has set an implementation deadline of January 1, 2022.  On or after that date, authors will be able to make in-scope research articles OA-compliant via different routes, including:

  • Publishing with journals or OA publishing platforms that make the final version of record immediately OA via their websites, and with a CC BY license.
  • Publishing with journals or platforms that allow the author’s accepted manuscript or version of record to be made immediately OA with a CC BY license via a subject or institutional repository.

According to Prosser, the proposed UKRI policy for articles is iterative from previous OA policies that date back to 2004.  The main change is compliance for repositories — eliminating embargoes for STEM and arts and humanities papers, and moving the commercial license to a more open CC BY license.

For monographs, book chapters and edited collections that acknowledge UKRI funding, the proposed policy is new, even though it has been discussed for years, Prosser said.  UKRI has set an implementation deadline of January 1, 2024 (unless a contract has been signed before this date that prevents adherence to the policy).  The proposed policy states:

  • The final version of record or post-peer-review author’s accepted manuscript must be free to view and download via an online publication platform, or institutional or subject repository within a maximum of 12 months of publication.
  • The OA version should be published under a license that maximizes reuse and is appropriate to the content of the work; CC BY is strongly preferred but where necessary CC BY-ND will be permissible.

The terms for monographs are more favorable to publishers than for articles, Prosser said, because of the 12-month embargo allowing for commercialization.

Licensing Requirements

UKRI proposes requiring a CC BY license for the OA version of all in-scope research articles. This means the version of record where OA is achieved via a journal or OA publishing platform, or the deposited version where OA is achieved via a repository. However, UKRI is considering allowing a no derivatives CC BY-ND for the OA version of a research article on a case-by-case basis. This consideration takes into account concerns raised by arts and humanities stakeholders that a CC BY license might not sufficiently protect content from being misinterpreted or misused.  The license for monographs is more favorable to publishers, Prosser said, because a CC BY-ND license is already allowed on a case-by-case basis under the proposed policy.

Technical Standards

UKRI proposes that its OA policy require in-scope research articles to be published or deposited in journals, on OA publishing platforms and repositories that meet the following criteria:

  • PIDs for research outputs must be implemented according to international standards such as DOI, URN or Handle.
  • Article-level metadata must be used according to a defined application profile that supports UKRI’s proposed OA policy and is available via a CCO public domain dedication.
  • Long-term preservation must be supported via a robust preservation program, such as CLOCKSS, or Portico.
  • Self-archiving policies must be registered in the SHERPA RoMEO database.

Funding and Costs

A critical aspect of the consultation involves funding and costs associated with the proposed technical standards and OA compliance. Currently, 30 percent of authored papers in the UK are OA on publication. A move to 100 percent OA upon publication would have a major financial impact on individual institutions. By way of example, research by the Universities UK Open Access Coordination Group (OACG) found that between 2013 and 2016 the average OA article processing charge (APC) increased by 16 percent.

The degree of financial impact would depend on each institution’s discipline mix, average APC costs and other technical issues around services such as DOAJ and SHERPA RoMEO which enable publicly-funded research to become fully accessible.

Hybrid Journals

Unlike Plan S, UKRI’s consultation makes no mention of hybrid journals. But it does offer options and welcomes input.

According to Prosser, there is strong support within the RLUK membership for an option restricting funding for OA in hybrid journals to “only when they are party to a transformative agreement or similar arrangement.” In his view, hybrid journals (which get paid by funding organizations and subscriptions) are a transition mechanism and a temporary solution. He suggests that UKRI’s proposed policy should be aligned with Plan S when it comes to hybrid journals and should only be allowed until December 31, 2024.

Furthermore, proposed options around hybrid journals and transformative agreements focus on larger publishers. RLUK members are concerned that this may squeeze out smaller organizations already struggling for funding.

Global Impact of the Consultation

Because research and scholarly communications are global endeavor, it is important to achieve international consensus on OA. Given that UKRI is also the largest funding body in cOalition S, its OA policy will ultimately have global ramifications beyond Europe and the UK.

Other OA efforts under way include the United States Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), which may include a no-embargo on manuscripts and other issues related to improving public access to U.S. taxpayer-funded research. Mexico-based Amelica is exploring an academically-led non-commercial approach to OA.  China is changing its reward system for universities and researchers, which will have an impact on OA and publishing.

On February 25, 2020, UNESCO launched a global consultation to develop a standard-setting instrument on Open Science to promote international alignment on OA in an effort to mobilize 122 countries to share research around COVID-19.

Conclusion – What’s Next

The questions posed by UKRI’s Open Access Review Consultation are important at any time. But as access to research has become critical in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, they have become urgent.

For both, research articles and monographs, UKRI is seeking views from stakeholders to inform considerations about policy implementation, funding and infrastructure support and the potential implications to equality, diversity and inclusion.

Responses are to be submitted via an online survey with questions organized by subject matter, by noon, May 29, 2020. Any individual or group from inside and outside the UK with an interest in research and innovation is welcome to respond. It is not necessary to respond to every question.
UKRI plans to announce its new OA policy by late 2020. It will supersede the existing RCUK Policy on Open Access, which has been in place since 2013 and should continue to be followed until further notice.

Recommended Reading & Resources

CCC’s webinar

More information on the UKRI Review Consultation

Online response form (deadline May 29, 2020)

Full List of Consultation Questions
An MS Word document is also available.

About Plan S from CCC

cOalition S

Author: Christopher Kenneally

Christopher Kenneally hosts CCC's Velocity of Content podcast series, which debuted in 2006 and is the longest continuously running podcast covering the publishing industry. As CCC's Senior Director, Marketing, he is responsible for organizing and hosting programs that address the business needs of all stakeholders in publishing and research. His reporting has appeared in the New York Times, Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, The Independent (London), WBUR-FM, NPR, and WGBH-TV.
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