Library Services


RCUK Policy on Open Access to Research: UCL Implementation Guidelines



UCL's expectation is that researchers will, in all cases, use their disciplinary knowledge to select the most effective dissemination channels for their research. UCL researchers are free to choose where to publish, how much to publish, and how often they publish. The purpose of these guidelines is to help UCL researchers to align their choices about where to publish with the RCUK Policy on Open Access.


Open Access

Open Access means the open and free availability of publicly-funded research outputs. Open Access is generally achieved by one of two routes, 'Gold' or 'Green'. By the Gold route, research is made openly available from the publisher's site, often in exchange for an Article Processing Charge (APC) payable to the publisher. By the Green route, research is deposited in institutional repositories such as UCL Discovery, or subject repositories such as Europe PubMed Central.

UCL's Green Open Access Mandate

In May 2009, UCL Academic Board agreed two principles to underpin UCL's publication activity and to support its scholarly mission:

  • That, copyright permissions allowing, a copy of all research outputs should be deposited in the UCL repository in Open Access
  • That individual UCL academic researchers should be directly responsible for providing and maintaining details of their publications in relevant UCL databases so as to support both Open Access and the requirement for UCL to keep an accurate record of its research outputs

UCL, therefore, has a 'Green' Open Access policy, by which copies of UCL research are deposited in UCL Discovery, UCL's Open Access repository. This UCL policy informs UCL's approach to the open access requirements of research funders.

For further details, please see the UCL Publications Policy.



The RCUK Policy applies to articles published in peer-reviewed academic journals or conference proceedings, referred to by RCUK as 'research papers'.


From April 2013, the RCUK have indicated that research papers resulting from research that is wholly or partially funded by the Research Councils:

  1. Should be published in journals which are compliant with Research Council policy on Open Access
  2. Must include details of the funding that supported the research, and a statement on how the underlying research materials - such as data, samples or models - can be accessed.

From 01 April 2013, research grant applications will no longer include provision for Open Access publication or other publication charges.

Compliant journals

Compliant journals are either 'Gold' - offering Open Access from the publisher's site, often in exchange for an 'Article Processing Charge' (APC) - or 'Green', supporting the deposit of research in institutional repositories such as UCL Discovery.

More fully, the Research Councils will recognise a journal as being compliant with their policy on Open Access if either:

  1. The journal provides, via its own website, immediate and unrestricted access to the final published version of the paper, which should be made available using the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence. This may involve payment of an 'Article Processing Charge' (APC) to the publisher. This is the 'Gold' route. Or,
  2. The journal consents to deposit of the final Accepted Manuscript in any repository, without restriction on non-commercial re-use and within a defined period. No APC will be payable to the publisher. This is the 'Green' route. RCUK accepts that publishers may wish to impose a delay between on-line publication and the availability of the final manuscript in a repository. Maximum allowable embargo periods vary according to discipline (see implementation section below).

The SHERPA/RoMEO database summarises the compliance of journal titles with research funder mandates, including that of RCUK. SHERPA/FACT is an extension of this database designed specifically to assist authors with the task of identifying RCUK compliance in journals.

For further advice on the RCUK Policy on Open Access, contact us.


UCL encourages its authors to comply with the RCUK Policy on Open Access. This can be done by following either the Green route or the Gold route - it is an academic choice.

Researchers can follow UCL's 'Green' Open Access mandate and deposit copies of research papers in UCL Discovery.

The maximum embargo periods for UCL researchers choosing the Green Open Access route to compliance with the RCUK Policy are:

  • 6 months (MRC-funded publications)
  • 24 months (AHRC- and ESRC-funded publications)
  • 12 months (all other RCUK-funded publications)

For detailed advice on embargo periods, contact us.

UCL has created an Institutional Publication Fund which will allow eligible RCUK-funded researchers to apply for monies to pay Article Processing Charges (APCs) for Gold Open Access publication, if researchers deem this the most effective dissemination route for their research and/or the journal's Green option is not compliant with the RCUK Policy.



Subject to available funding, UCL will meet reasonable Article Processing Charges in full where the following criteria are satisfied:

Publication criteria:

  • Peer-reviewed research article or proceedings paper
  • Publication arises wholly or partially from RCUK-funded research

Journal criteria:

  • Journal complies with RCUK Policy on Open Access
  • Journal does not allow RCUK-compliant 'Green' deposit, or researcher feels there is a compelling academic case for choosing 'Gold' Open Access

Author criteria:

  • Corresponding author and/or grant holder is a current member of UCL, with either Staff or Research Postgraduate (for PhD students whose research is Research Council-funded) status
  • Author and/or grant holder has deposited a copy of research paper with UCL Discovery

Collaborative research

When research outputs have arisen from inter-University collaboration, UCL will meet publication charges provided that the eligibility criteria listed above are satisfied.

Multi-funder research

When research outputs have arisen from multi-funder activity, UCL will meet publication charges provided that the eligibility criteria listed above are satisfied.

Page charges and other publication costs

Page charges and similar costs are no longer allowable charges against RCUK research grants. 'Gold' APC charges will often cover all publication costs. Should RCUK-funded researchers have opted for the 'Green' route to compliance, or should additional charges apply where researchers have elected for 'Gold' publication, UCL will meet such charges centrally from the Publication Fund, provided that all the eligibility criteria listed above are satisfied and that funding is available.


The Publication Fund will be managed by UCL Library Services as a single, central budget. UCL aims to allow equitable access to the Fund to all eligible grant-holders, and expects through the mechanisms outlined here to be able to meet all the legitimate needs of the UCL community to publish their research arising from RCUK funding in the most academically appropriate forum.


How to claim funding.


Peer-reviewed RCUK-funded journal articles and proceedings papers must include details of the funding that supported the research. Further guidance is available.


Peer-reviewed RCUK-funded journal articles and proceedings papers must include a statement on how the underlying research materials - such as data, samples or models - can be accessed. However, the policy does not require that the data must be made open. If there are considered to be good or compelling reasons to protect access to the data, for example commercial confidentiality or legitimate sensitivities around data derived from potentially identifiable human participants, these should be included in the statement. UCL Research Data provides services to facilitate the management of digital datasets by researchers. So does UCL Library Services for smaller datasets. The UCL Research Data Policy gives more details.


RCUK's definition of Open Access extends to the unrestricted use of manual and automated text and data mining tools, as well as unrestricted re-use of content with proper attribution. In support of this aim, the Councils require that Gold publications are assigned a Creative Commons CC-BY or 'Attribution' licence, which lets others modify, build upon and/or distribute the licensed work (including for commercial purposes) as long as the original author is credited. For Green publications, the RCUK requires that the manuscript is available for non-commercial re-use, although no specific licence is prescribed.

Publishers have concerns about permitting such freedom. RCUK is committed to monitoring the impact of its licensing stipulations.



UCL is required to make periodic compliance reports to RCUK. UCL will aim to use the UCL Research Publications System (RPS) to automate the work of reporting as far as possible. However, researchers are asked to report basic data about their publications in support of UCL's duty to monitor compliance with the RCUK Policy:

  • Data about the publication and the research grant, and a copy of the final manuscript of the article, are required in order to make a claim for 'Gold' Article Processing Charges from the UCL Publication Fund.
  • Authors of Green publications are asked to provide similar information

Researchers must also meet the requirements of their funders to submit details of outputs to the RCUK Research Outcomes System (ROS) or ResearchFish or other as appropriate, and it is expected that in time these will be used to assess compliance.


All RCUK grant-holders are contractually obliged to comply with the RCUK Open Access Policy. Where they become concerned that an individual or unit is not making appropriate efforts to comply, where possible, with RCUK requirements, the issue may be raised with the appropriate Head of Department and/or Dean.

In cases where no academically credible, RCUK-compliant journal is available, UCL will support non-compliance by a grant-holder in the interests of maintaining academic freedom and ensuring research is disseminated for maximum academic impact. Head of Department sign-off will be required in such cases, generally on a case-by-case basis, although in particular cases Heads of Department may wish to establish agreements of broader scope, for instance where all the highest academic impact journals in a field offer no compliant route.


Where to publish

UCL encourages researchers to select publication routes that will maximise the impact of their research, and UCL will aim to meet all reasonable publication costs, funds permitting.

Where journals support 'Green' compliance with the RCUK Policy, researchers can use that route to satisfy the RCUK's stipulations. If researchers deem 'Gold' compliance the most effective route to compliance, or if RCUK-compliant 'Green' Open Access is not supported, UCL will meet reasonable publication costs, funds permitting, provided that the eligibility criteria listed above are met.

However, it is desirable to ensure that there are some market pressures on publishers to lower APCs in the interests of the long-term sustainability of the system. UCL will monitor publishers' charges, and researchers may be required to justify their choice of Gold publication in cases where publication charges seem egregiously high. The Vice-Provost (Research) will arbitrate in such cases.

Volume of publication

The number of publications needed to disclose a particular body of findings or scholarship is an academic judgement. However, UCL expects all its researchers to follow responsible practice in the matter of research publication, noting that both APC charging and REF submission requirements often motivate fewer, higher impact publications. The Open Access Manager may investigate cases where one researcher seems to be publishing disproportionate numbers of publications with apparent disregard for all considerations of good value.

Publisher discounts

Publishers are increasingly offering institutional membership schemes and other Open Access plans that typically result in reduced APCs for subscribing HEIs. UCL will evaluate such schemes, and may invest in them when they may reasonably be expected to deliver overall efficiencies in the disposition of the Publication Fund. Additionally, where significant volumes of publications are placed with particular publishers, UCL will seek to negotiate a reduction with the publisher. UCL will make details of all such arrangements available to researchers, who, while free to choose where to publish, will be encouraged to consult these details as an aid to decision-making.


The RCUK Policy does not cover editorials, non-peer-reviewed articles, books, chapters, monographs, digital outputs, or any type of publication other than peer-reviewed journal articles and proceedings papers. However, the Research Councils encourage authors of such literature to consider making them Open Access where possible, and UCL encourages the deposit of such material in UCL Discovery, in keeping with the UCL Publications Policy. Further advice on Open Access to such material is available from the UCL Discovery team at discovery@ucl.ac.uk.



If a researcher is not funded by RCUK, nor the Wellcome Trust, UCL will provide funds for the publication of research outputs as Gold Open Access outputs, if this route is chosen by the academic researcher.

UCL nonetheless also encourages Open Access to all UCL research outputs through the deposit of copies of research in UCL Discovery, copyright permissions allowing, in accordance with the UCL Publications Policy.

Other funders' OA policies

The RCUK Policy is part of a growing appetite for Open Access among major funders of UCL research:

  • The Wellcome Trust has mandated Open Access since 2007, and re-imburses UCL for all APCs incurred. More.
  • The European Research Council (ERC) now regards Open Access as fundamental to its mission, and requires all publications to be publicly available no later than 6 months after publication.
  • The EC has stated that it will make Open Access to scientific publications a general principle of Horizon 2020, the EU's Research & Innovation funding programme for 2014-2020.

The policies of a number of other key UCL research funders are summarised. The SHERPA-JULIET database summarises the policies of funders worldwide.

For general advice on compliance with the Open Access expectations of research funders, contact us


UCL supports researcher engagement with subject repositories (such as Europe PubMed Central and arXiv) provided that such engagement is not in conflict with the requirements of RCUK or other funders.

Some Research Councils, such as MRC and ESRC, have a requirement that research papers must be deposited in specific repositories, such as Europe PubMed Central (formerly UKPMC) and ESRC Research Catalogue. Such stipulations are detailed in the policies of individual Research Councils. Further advice is available from the UCL Library Services Open Access team.


This detailed guidance will be kept up to date as RCUK's emerging guidance is clarified. The arrangements for the management of the UCL Publication Fund described here will be reviewed periodically in the light of practical experience of UCL's obligatory compliance with the RCUK Open Access Policy. Researchers should make particular efforts to keep aware of the latest version of this policy.


Where a UCL researcher is unhappy with judgements made concerning their eligibility for support from the UCL Publication Fund or their right to publish in non-compliant journals, they may appeal to the Chair of the Library Committee.


For more information and advice about Open Access, the UCL Publications Policy, and the policies of the RCUK, Wellcome Trust and other funders, contact the UCL Library Services Open Access team.