UK Funding Bodies Mandate Open Access

Three Research Councils issue self-archiving mandates.

Three of the Research Councils in the UK have issued self-archiving mandates for all the research papers they fund. This is part of a long-awaited policy on open access from Research Councils UK (RCUK), the umbrella group for the eight Research Councils, and represents the first Government funding bodies worldwide to impose such mandates.

SPARC Europe welcomes the publication of the position statement on access to research outputs by Research Councils UK (RCUK) and the related policies adopted by individual Research Councils. Following a year of extensive consultation on their draft policy, RCUK has reiterated their commitment to ensuring that “ideas and knowledge derived from publicly-funded research must be made widely available and accessible for public use, interrogation and scrutiny, as widely, rapidly and effectively as possible.” To this end, a number of Research Councils have announced policies that will require deposit of research articles in open access repositories.

David Prosser, Director of SPARC Europe, said “This is a vitally important step in making available UK research results to all researchers within the UK and beyond. Mandating deposit of research articles will increase the dissemination and utility of these articles, providing access to all interested readers.”

Three Councils (covering biotechnology and biological sciences, economics and social research, and medical research) have made deposit of research papers in open access repositories a condition of grant. One Council (responsible for the UK’s central research laboratories) “strongly encourages” deposit, while the remaining four do not yet have policies in places. (It is expected that two of these will make announcements by the end of 2006.)

According to Prosser, “It is obviously disappointing that a year after publication of the initial RCUK draft policy some Councils have not developed mandates for open access. However, we should not lose sight of the major move forward by three of the Councils. These are the first deposit mandates adopted by any Government funding bodies internationally. The lessons of less-successful ‘encouragement’ policies, such as the NIH policy in the US, have been learnt and the UK is now in a leading position with respect to the dissemination of its research outputs. We hope that other countries — and the remaining UK Councils! — move quickly to ensure that they benefit from the increased use of research papers that comes from open access.”

SPARC Global