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Open Access

How do I know if I am RCUK funded?

RCUK is the abbreviation for the Research Councils UK, which is made up of the following Research Councils:

  • Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
  • Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)
  • Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
  • Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
  • Medical Research Counci (MRC)
  • Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
  • Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC)

See RCUK Policy on Open Access for links to the policy, guidance notes and FAQs.

Students who publish articles during the term of an RCUK student award are also expected to acknowledge their funder and to comply with the RCUK policy on Open Access.

If you are a working on a collaborative project, or with co-authors, then check with your collaborators whether any of them are RCUK funded, as the RCUK policy on Open Access would apply to your joint journal articles and conference papers.

I'm RCUK funded so what do I have to do regarding Open Access?

In brief, your peer reviewed journal articles or conference papers, if based on research funded by one of the Research Councils UK, must meet two main criteria:

1. Be published in a journal “compliant with the RCUK Policy on Open Access”

In order to find a compliant journal, we recommend that you choose the best journal for your article and then check if it matches the RCUK policy on Open Access, using the SHERPA/FACT website.

Note that some journals may only be compliant if you pay Article Processing Charges (APC) for Gold Open Access. See our  How do I make my work Open Access? page for an explanation of Green and Gold Open Access, and below, “As an RCUK funded researcher, should I follow the Green or the Gold route to Open Access?” If you do not have funds to cover such fees or if the journal is not compliant you can still go ahead and publish with that journal: see below “What happens if I fail to meet the funder requirements?”

2. Include two statements:

i. a statement on funding source/s

ii. a statement on how “underlying research materials – such as data, samples or models – can be accessed”

These main criteria are outlined in the section “Expectations for Researchers” in the RCUK policy.

As an RCUK funded researcher, should I follow the Green or the Gold route to Open Access?

(See How do I make my work Open Access? for further information about the Green and Gold routes to Open Access.)

RCUK have stated a preference for Gold Open Access, and made some money available to support it.  However, they also support a mixed approach and you can choose which route to follow. Middlesex University supports the Green route to Open Access through the Middlesex University Research Repository (also known as the eRepository).

If you choose the Gold route to OA then the publisher must:
  • Allow immediate, unrestricted online access, upon publication.
  • Permit immediate deposit, with unrestricted re-use in a repository.

Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) licenses are explained below. If your Gold OA publisher does not allow CC-BY licenses then you should not use RCUK money (e.g. from your research grant) to pay for the Article Processing Charge.

If you choose the Green route to OA:

You should deposit the version of your article as accepted for publication (i.e. after peer-review), ensure that you are able to make your work freely available in accordance with the embargo period acceptable to your funding council and also ensure that you meet any additional requirements to deposit in a subject repository. See below for more discussion of the differences between funding councils, and also Which version can I make Open Access? for more information on versions.

Which of my outputs are covered by the RCUK Policy?

If your research was funded by Research Councils UK then your peer reviewed journal articles or conference papers resulting from that funded research are affected. At present, the requirement does not cover other types of research output but you are encouraged to deposit other outputs into the Middlesex University Research Repository, to be made Open Access.

It should be noted that the policy was introduced through a five year transition period for all outputs published since 1 April 2013. This transition period does seem to allow for some flexibility around the RCUK policy on Open Access.

However, also note that individual councils may have had policies from an earlier date, e.g. the Medical Research Council has had an Open Access policy since 2006. If you think an earlier policy might apply to you, we recommend that you visit the webpages of your funding council to find out more. Links to each of the funding councils appear on the RCUK’s How to apply for funding page.

My research article is the result of more than one funder's contributions, does the RCUK policy apply?

Yes, if one of the co-funders was a member of the RCUK then the RCUK policy on Open Access applies. RCUK funded researchers should ensure that collaborators are aware of all the terms and conditions of their funding. Note that the inference here is that if a co-author is an RCUK award student, then the RCUK policy applies.

The RCUK Frequently Asked Questions document found on the RCUK Policy on Open Access page explains this further.

Is there a difference between the disciplines and the individual funding councils, in the way this policy works?

Yes, for example if you follow the Green route to Open Access (see How do I make my work Open Access? for an explanation of Green and Gold routes), then the embargo period should be a maximum of 24 months in the arts, humanities and social sciences and a maximum of 12 months for most other disciplines.

Medical Research Council (MRC) funded researchers are expected to have their work Open Access after an embargo period of only 6 months, and both Medical Research Council (MRC) and Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) funded researchers are expected to ensure that their work is available in Europe PubMed Central.

If more than one RCUK funder is involved then the shortest embargo period will apply.

You are advised to find out more about your individual funding council’s requirements on their Areas of Research webpages.

What funds are available to me to pay for Gold Open Access Article Processing Charges (APCs)?

The RCUK documentation refers to block grants to Research Organisations.

See Sources of Funding for Open Access Publishing for Middlesex specific information (this is a staff intranet page so you will need to log-in to access).

Research bids will include an allowance for Article Processing Charge (APC) fees where funders expect Gold Open Access payments to be made.

What happens if I fail to meet the funder requirements?

RCUK are implementing a transition, and they aren’t expecting 100% compliance from the very beginning. In particular, there appears to be some flexibility over the embargo periods for Green Open Access (except those who are MRC funded where only a 6 month embargo is acceptable), particularly where the author has no access to a fund for Gold APC fees. This is explained in their FAQs document.

In terms of the compliance that RCUK are expecting the FAQs page states:

“In 2013/14 institutions will be expected to make a minimum of 45% of their papers available via Open Access (Gold or Green).  This increases to 53% in 2014/15.” This is echoed in the policy itself, which also explains that at the end of five years, they are expecting a 75% compliance rate. Middlesex University is committed to achieving this rate of compliance.

The RCUK policy document explains how the RCUK intends to review its policy in sections 3.13 and 3.14.

See the RCUK Policy on Open Access for further information.

What are Creative Commons (CC) Licenses?

These are a set of licenses developed by Creative Commons - “a global nonprofit organization that enables sharing and reuse of creativity and knowledge through the provision of free legal tools.”

Creative Commons licenses enable you as an author to authorise re-use of your creative work based on the permissions you assign.

What is a Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license?

The CC-BY license is also known as a “Creative Commons Attribution license”. For content published with such a license, anyone is free to:

  • Copy, distribute, display, and perform the work
  • Make derivative works
  • Make commercial use of the work

Under the following conditions:

  • Attribution: You must give the original author credit.

The above is the most accommodating of the CC-BY licenses. See licensing types for more information on the six main Creative Commons licenses on offer.