UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Open Access Review – Workshop session led by Dr Paul Richards, Senior Policy Advisor, UKRI Strategy Directorate (Open Research) and Claire Fraser, Senior Policy Advisor, Research England – UKRI

Dominic Walker

Research Publications Manager, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine


Paul Richards (Senior Policy Advisor, UKRI) and Claire Fraser (Senior Policy Advisor, Research England) provided an update on UKRI’s review of its open access policies, providing an opportunity for feedback on the developments to date as well as time the attendees to discuss common problems and opportunities across institutions.

They reminded the community that UKRI is committed to the idea of openness and transparency being the key foundations for research and innovation. This idea feeds into various existing policy instruments, including the RCUK (now UKRI) policy, REF 2021 policy and their open data concordat. The UKRI open access policy is currently under review, and will consider the substantial movements towards openness since the previous RCUK policy was first announced. There are also other complicating factors being considered, including rising costs (of both open access and subscriptions) as well as the complexities of international publisher policies. [On this point: anyone who has administrated deposits to open access repositories will know it is common for publishers to have varying policies for authors from different countries, and/or in receipt of funding from different organisations. Moreover, embargo periods vary between disciplinary suites of journals even within the same publisher’s portfolio, usually anywhere between 0-36 months, with some journals still offering no self-archiving policy].

Importantly, the scope of the review will include articles, conference proceedings, monographs and chapters in monographs. However, it was noted that decisions on open data are being deferred; there are currently no plans to set policy around open data. Textbooks are also out of scope of the review. The review is geared towards enhancing the various benefits of research in UK universities, particularly the numerous societal and economic ones. However, it is also aiming to build sustainability within open access and encourage the development of new open access models. It will also attempt to align UKRI policy with international funder policies.

The timeline for the review as currently envisioned is as follows:

  • Oct 2019 – Jan 2020: consultation on draft policy with stakeholders, including researchers;
  • Spring 2020: analysis of the information gained during consultation;
  • Sometime after Q2 2020: the new policy announcement;
  • This will be followed by a specific consultation on the next (post-2021) REF requirements.

Initial considerations include the aim to have immediate, free access to research outputs to maximise their re-use, to boost value for money, and to ease compliance with the policy stack. However, current stakeholder engagement suggests there would need to be some flexibility – with full, immediate open access being the ultimate aim, but with the need to be as permissive as possible in contexts where this is not possible. It was also noted that work needs to be continued to support the facilitation of compliance, including clear communications around policy specifics and the purpose of the policy, as well as work on infrastructure and standards, methods of monitoring and reporting compliance, collaborating internationally, and, importantly, addressing various issues around research cultures. On the technical side, UKRI is also considering how repositories can be more effective in enabling open access, including issues around metadata and persistent identifiers, and interoperability between publisher platforms, repositories and CRISs.

Plan S, the upcoming policy launched by a wide range of international funders, will be taken into account during the policy review, but it was stressed that the result of other review processes will need to be considered fully before making final decisions on the shape of the UKRI policy after 2020.

Although the aim would be to seek commonality with the next UKRI policy different (which would apply to researchers in receipt of grants from AHRC, BBSRC, EPSRC, ESRC, MRC, NERC and STFC), the next REF open access policy (2028?) may be slightly different. The four UK funding bodies will together make decisions about this (i.e. Research England, Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, Scottish Funding Council, Department for the Economy Northern Ireland). The current REF policy will continue into 2021 until decisions are made.

A number of important points were raised by the UKCORR community, particularly around tools for measuring compliance. It was considered that metadata standards specified in the new UKRI policy should clearly state what are mandated and what are recommended, so institutions and others know where to focus infrastructure efforts. There were also concerns about the length of time it takes to change academic culture – policies can change behaviours but not necessarily attitudes. UKRI stresses that any mandates try to seek a balance between the “carrot and the stick”, but note that some disciplines have been more engaged in a cultural shift towards openness than others. In a similar vein, another member of the audience noted that perhaps the quantification of compliance often has little to do with a move towards openness by researchers, but is more to do with labour invested by library workers. In addition, it was argued that we need to think critically about how the REF is or is not shifting research culture, and perhaps a lot of the good work is being done by smaller or less research intensive universities that are focusing on openness beyond the REF in order to engage their academics/researchers.

A group discussion session followed the presentation and Q&A period. This was focussed around two questions: (1) what key developments are needed to enable full/immediate access?; (2) how do you engage researchers in depositing/how can we increase value and usage of repositories to multiple audiences?

Issues raised about the developments needed for full and immediate access to research included (from group discussions and a Post-It note board):

  • Changing copyright law to allow researchers to retain the right to self-archiving (e.g. a change to French law in 2016), or adoption of the UK-SCL
  • It would be good for Jisc to negotiate transformative agreements which mandate that publishers send AAMs via Jisc Router and interoperate with Sherpa/Romeo
  • Work with publishers to have clear and consistent self-archiving policies
  • Members stressed the need for policy decisions to be made promptly so internal decisions can be made
  • CRIS systems and corporate ownership are getting complex, need better integration of systems like Unpaywall and development of shared systems/infrastructure
  • Decreasing duplication of effort
  • Permission to use portions of the UKRI open access block grant on infrastructure
  • Clarity on what licenses are permissible and not permissible in what contexts
  • Better integration of open access resources into library discovery systems.

How do we currently engage researchers and end-users in depositing, discovering, reusing research in repositories? What could the sector do to increase the value and usage of repositories to multiple audiences?

  • We need to consider what exactly researchers getting out of the OA process enacted via mandates
  • Further roll-out of DORA principles
  • More face-to-face work with academics, rather than just encouraging repository deposit
  • Improving user experience for depositing
  • How do we get professionals, SMEs and others to engage with repository content? Should we develop tools for non-researchers to drive usage?
  • Grey literature and other outputs are not always considered in repository developments, even though repositories would be the primary source of discovery for these outputs
  • Re-use and reproducibility need to be given greater attention.

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