Reflections on the new UKRI Policy

The new UKRI open access policy, comes into place for articles next April and the new policy will enforce openness to monographs from 2024.  There has been a plethora of communication across HEIs on messaging to Faculty and between UKCORR members on the best way on messaging to Faculty.  The policy itself has brought up talking points particuarly around licensing and compliancy dates.  ARMA (Association for Research Managers and Administrators) set up a couple of workshops to focus on articles and books for the community to share ideas and UKCORR will look to take together a collective response back to UKRI over the next couple of months.

One of the main issues of contention is the Rights Retention Strategy (RRS), UKRI states authors who choose to publish in a subscription journal must deposit the author accepted manuscript under a CC BY license immediately on publication.   This is based on the premise that authors placing the RRS text in the submission will have be able to meet this requirement .  However, in the experience of Wellcome Trust authors applying the RRS statement in their submission did not always yield an AAM with a CC BY license.  Publishers have refused authors being able to apply a CC BY to their AAM through getting them to sign more restrictive contracts or in some cases not having the option to choose the green route at the point of acceptance.  UKCORR members have found it difficult to advise in these cases and have deferred these back to the funder, who in turn have tended to deal with these cases directly with the author, missing out OA teams with their response. Anecdotally, it seems funders have asked authors to choose a different subscription journal or publish in open access titles, rather than confront publishers head on.  Should funders have worked more closely with publishers to resolve this and compromised more, as they did with the Finch Report in 2012?  But as Finch did not produce the required outcome for open access acceleration then this direct approach maybe is needed to disrupt the age-old way of doing (or not doing) things. But this approach leaves many involved in open access unsure on how strongly to commit to UKRI’s RRS stance and needing further assurances and clarification.

Messaging to academics is critical to the success of implementing the new policy.  For the last several years the key message to academics over compliance has been to deposit from the date of acceptance, UKRI in this policy are focussing on deposit on date of publication.  This has led some to surmise that the upcoming REF guidelines will mirror the publication date and that we should start telling academics to follow this date.  For researchers, having followed the mantra of on acceptance, it could be confusing to change this back to on publication. Some UKCORR members have wanted to go further and mooted to make manuscripts available from date of submission.  Going back to the date of publication, even this is unclear, a number of members have debated whether this is the date of published online/ahead of print or the published issue date.

Other considerations in implementing the policy are determining how many of your researchers are UKRI funded, you can adapt the amount of communication dependent on these numbers.  With any form of engagement starting at a much earlier stage in the research process and guiding researchers on their publishing options before submission is extremely important.  Putting together a series of FAQs on the new policy and adapting the ones the UKRI have distributed to institutional contexts will help.  As many will verify, open access compliance equates to many working days of manual checking, the constant to and fro between publishers, funders and academics for compliancy details.  Thinking of ways to reduce this time will be vital, adapting improved Repository/CRIS workflows, replacing legacy software, using JISC Router to harvest publication metadata are all considerations. URKI have mentioned Sherpa rather than the cOAlitionS Journal Checker to verify self-archiving policies and CLOCKSS or Portico for preservation, all these tools will come into play over the next few years.

Chris Manning UKCORR Web and Publicity Officer

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