Library Services


New UKRI Open Access Policy now published

3 September 2021

UK Science Minister outlines ambitious new Open Access policy.

Amanda Solloway MP, Science Minister

Friday 6 August 2021 saw the long-awaited publication of the UKRI Open Access policy. I attended a webinar that afternoon, hosted by Imperial College, where the policy was formally launched by Amanda Solloway MP, Science Minister for the UK Government (left). There were just over 30 attenders at this closed event.

First, let us analyze what the Minister had to say about the role of Open Science. Her speech is available to read in full. She certainly did not mince her words when referring to the importance of Open Access and Open Science:

"The open research agenda is also about improving the very fabric of research, changing the way it’s undertaken as well as the way it’s communicated. This means opening up new possibilities for more creative and imaginative ways of undertaking and sharing research. And increasing transparency and sharing across the research process. As much as possible, we need to apply the principles of transparency and free access to more than just scientific publications. Open research encompasses all aspects of the research process, and research artefacts such as data, code and materials."

These are strong words. Open Science is often dismissed as an enabler, rather than a goal in itself for research. Well, it was not presented as a simple enabler in the Minister’s address. Open Science is about improving the very fabric of research and the Minister drew parallels with a number of new Government strategies – Build Back Better, the Levelling Up agenda, and the Government’s new Research and development (R&D) people and culture strategy. As we progress to developing the new UCL strategy, it is clear that Open Science and Scholarship can play an important part in the ‘new normal’.

Policy content

What does the UKRI Open Access policy say? The bare bones, minus much qualifying detail, are:

Journal Articles

In-scope research articles submitted for publication on or after 1 April 2022.

Compliant open access routes

  • Route 1: Publish the research article open access in a journal or publishing platform which makes the Version of Record immediately open access via its website.
    1. The Version of Record must be free and unrestricted to view and download. It must have a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence, or other licence permitted by UKRI.
    2. The research article must be made open access in a journal or publishing platform that meets the minimum technical standards that facilitate access, discovery and reuse. 
  • Route 2: Publish the research article in a subscription journal and deposit the Author’s Accepted Manuscript (or Version of Record, where the publisher permits) in an institutional or subject repository at the time of final publication.
    1. The deposited version must be free and unrestricted to view and download. It must have a CC BY licence, or other licence permitted by UKRI.
    2. A publisher-requested delay or ‘embargo period’ between publication of the Version of Record and open access of the deposited version is not permitted.
    3. The research article must be made open access in a repository that meets the minimum technical standards that facilitate access, discovery and reuse. 
  • Authors can publish their research article in the journal or platform they consider most appropriate for their research, provided UKRI’s open access requirements are met via either open access route.
  • UKRI is providing an Open Access Block Grant to support implementation of this policy.
  • UKRI requires in-scope research articles to include a Data Access Statement, even where there are no data associated with the article or the data are inaccessible.

Long form publications (e.g. monographs)

In-scope monographs, book chapters and edited collections published on or after 1 January 2024.

Compliant open access routes

  • For in-scope monographs, book chapters and edited collections:
    1. the final Version of Record or the Author’s Accepted Manuscript must be free to view and download via an online publication platform, publishers’ website, or institutional or subject repository within a maximum of 12 months of publication.
    2. the open access version has a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) Licence or other licence permitted by UKRI and allows the reader to search for and reuse content, subject to proper attribution.
    3. the open access version should include, where possible, any images, illustrations, tables and other supporting content.
    4. where an Author’s Accepted Manuscript is deposited, it should be clear that this is not the final published version.
  • UKRI recognises there may be rare instances where meeting open access requirements for long-form publications may not be possible. Therefore, the following exemptions may apply:
    1. where the only appropriate publisher, after liaison and consideration, is unable to offer an open access option that complies with UKRI’s policy. Further guidance will be provided in due course, as outlined on our website at Shaping Our Open Access Policy.
    2. where a monograph, book chapter or edited collection is the outcome of a UKRI Training Grant. Where possible, UKRI expects Research Organisations to support researchers to make such outputs open access; however, it recognises that publication may occur sometime beyond the lifetime of a training grant.
  • UKRI encourages the adoption of metadata standards and persistent identifiers for long-form research outputs, but they are not currently a requirement of this policy.

Response to the policy

The policy has been a long time in the making, with extensive consultations. UCL submitted a number of sets of comments during the drafting of the policy and held a Town Hall with over 100 attenders. Already, some publishers, such as Taylor and Francis, are pushing back against the new policy, particularly the arrangements for Green Open Access for journal articles and zero embargoes.

UCL colleagues with questions should complete an enquiry form; if direct contact with an OA team member is needed, enquirers should e-mail openaccess@ucl.ac.uk.

Paul Ayris
Pro-Vice-Provost (UCL Library Services & UCL Office for Open Science & Scholarship)