Research Councils UK (RCUK) has announced that from April 2013, publicly-funded science papers must be made free to access within six months of publication.
The move comes amid criticism that journal publishers are making huge profits by locking research behind paywalls and expensive subscriptions.
According to universities and science minister David Willetts there are “massive” economic benefits to making research open to everyone.
“If the taxpayer has paid for this research to happen, that work shouldn’t be put behind a paywall before a British citizen can read it,” he said in an interview with the Guardian.
Recent estimates suggest that universities are paying around £200m a year in subscription fees to journal publishers.
Under the new scheme, authors will pay article processing charges (APCs) of roughly £2,000 to have their papers peer reviewed and made available online.
In parallel, eligible organisations will be expected to set-up and manage their own publication funds.
Professor Douglas Kell, RCUK Champion for Research and Information Management said: “Widening access to the outputs of research currently published in journals has the potential to contribute substantially to furthering the progress of scientific and other research, ensuring that the UK continues to be a world leader in these fields.”
However, there are concerns that covering the expected £50m per year transition cost- which will come out of the current science budget- will significantly damage British research.
Bernard Rentier, a professor of virology and immunology at the University of Liège, believes that the UK government has taken the wrong strategy.
“This decision which appears at first sight as supportive for a free diffusion of research, could well meet one claim of the Open Access worldwide movement (free access to research output) but could also harm considerably the other (fight escalating publication costs)”, he wrote in a recent blog post.
The announcement is in a response to a report led by Manchester University sociologist Professor Dame Janet Finch on a transition to open access research.
The full RCUK policy on Access to Research Outputs can be downloaded by clicking on the link below.
The new policy, which will apply to all qualifying publications being submitted for publication from 1 April 2013, states that peer reviewed research papers:
- must be published in journals which are compliant with Research Council policy on Open Access, and; - 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.