Major UK science funder unveils strict open access policy
From April 2022, scientists are to write papers supported by the UK’s national research funding agency, UKRI, to be read immediately after publication, the funder announced today in a much-anticipated review of its open access policy (OA). As expected, the details match closely with those spelled out in Plan S, the bold pledge by many funders to release all science outside of payment walls. The British agency was one of the first supporters of the plan.
However, UKRI has not yet decided whether it will pay the per-article open access publication fee charged by a particular category of journals which includes Nature and other Nature-branded titles. This decision will be subject to consultation, specifies the donor.
UKRI, which has an annual budget of around £ 8 billion (US $ 11 billion), is one of the major donors participating in Plan S, along with the European Commission. For the most part, his policy echoes the principles of Plan S. He insists on immediate OA (where UKRI previously allowed 6 or 12 months). Articles for which an author receives UKRI funding must be published in open access in a journal (sometimes called the Open Access Gold Route); if this is not possible, authors can publish online the accepted and peer-reviewed version of their manuscript (sometimes referred to as the Green OA). Articles must have liberal licenses allowing anyone to reuse and republish them. From 2024, long articles, such as books and monographs, must be opened within 12 months of publication.
UKRI says it will provide funding of up to £ 46.7million per year to support policy implementation; part of this sum will go to the universities to help them pay the open access fees. Ottoline Leyser, Managing Director of UKRI, called this policy “an important step towards realizing our vision of a more open and transparent research culture”.
UKRI will cover free access costs for authors, but not in all cases. For hybrid journals, which are subscription journals that offer optional open access, the funder says its money can be used to support open access publishing only in titles that have transition or transition agreements. transformation. These are contracts with libraries or academic consortia, in which the consortia pay a flat fee both to cover paid content subscriptions and to allow authors to openly publish their work. Bristol-based non-profit JISC negotiates with publishers on behalf of UK universities and maintains a list of these agreements.
There is a question mark as to whether UKRI will cover the costs for hybrid journals that do not have such agreements; including Nature and a few other reviews. Last year, some of these journals negotiated with Plan S funders to cover their open access costs if the journals committed to gradually increasing their open access content over time, among other rules. They would be known as transformative journals. But not all Plan S funders support this idea, says Robert Kiley, chief strategy officer for cOAlition S, the group of funders supporting Plan S.
So far UKRI is undecided. He says he will only cover the costs of transformative journals once they have been approved by JISC as “meeting industry requirements.” This will be decided after consultation, a spokesperson said. Steven Inchcoombe, Director of Publishing and Solutions for NatureThe publisher of Springer Nature said in a statement that potentially restricting funding in this way “risks leaving the authors behind.” (NatureThe news team is editorial independent of its publisher.)
A spokesperson for the Publishers Association, a UK trade body, said he was also concerned that UKRI endorsed the OA Green Lane. As well as leaving the final version of an article behind a pay wall, this also allows authors to avoid fees when publishing in hybrid journals.
As part of Plan S, some funders have said they will require authors to assert their rights to use the open access greenway when submitting manuscripts to subscription journals, in a policy called the retention of rights policy (RRS). Some publishers have accepted it, but dozens of hybrid journal publishers have spoken out against it. UKRI will also require authors submitting to subscription journals to retain the ability to publish their OA manuscript online, a spokesperson said – echoing the terms, but not the exact language, of the RRS. However, if publishers refuse to accept such submissions, the spokesperson added, authors will have to look for another route to OA. “We do not require free publication,” wrote Duncan Wingham, a physicist who is UKRI’s Open Access champion and executive chairman of the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council (a funding body within UKRI), in an explanation of the policy.
While editors are concerned about parts of the policy, Plan S representatives have welcomed it. Marc Schiltz, chairman of a group of cOAlition S leaders and chairman of the Science Europe funders association in Brussels, said UKRI’s policy would be “a model and an inspiration for other funders. of funds in the world ”.