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Principles for the allocation of Open Access funding

Summary guidance for corresponding authors

Researchers at the University of Warwick have been expected to meet open access (OA) requirements for their published outputs since 2013. These requirements have come from national and international research funders, the Research Excellence Framework (REF) and the University.

Since the introduction of the first block grant in 2013, the Library has administered Open Access funding on a first come, first served basis and there has previously been sufficient funding to allow any funded researcher requesting support to make their work openly available. However, in 2020/21 the UKRI block grant was exhausted for the first time and it is becoming clear that this approach is no longer sustainable.

In addition, the publishing landscape is changing. There are a growing number of Open Access options available to authors. The introduction of Transformative Agreements – which cover the cost of both subscriptions and open access publishing services under the terms of the same agreement – has provided more authors with the opportunity to publish openly, but these often come at an additional cost, placing even more pressure on block grants and other funding streams. The new Wellcome Trust OA requirements and the forthcoming amended UKRI and REF Open Access policies, are also expected to have an increasing impact on what can, and should, be funded.

The following principles are designed to ensure that both open access funding and transformative agreements are targeted in the most effective way to continue to support authors who need to make their work Open Access to meet the requirements of their funder. Other applications will be considered on a case-by-case basis. The principles will be applied to all centrally administered funds, although departments are also encouraged to adopt the same approach. The main priorities for funding / support are:

  • Original research articles or uninvited / non-commissioned review articles where the funder's Open Access policy requires that these are made open access
  • Papers where the corresponding author has a contract of employment with the University (and would be eligible for the Research Excellence Framework exercise – REF-after-REF2021)
  • Articles in fully Open Access journals
  • Articles where the requirements of the acknowledged funders cannot be met using the ‘green’ route to open access. We will only approve Open Access charges for hybrid journals where the 'green' (self-archiving) route does not comply with the funder's policy
  • Article processing charges (APCs). Page and colour charges will no longer be covered, and publishing fees will be considered on a case-by-case basis

Open Access charges and other publishing fees will not be covered for authors seeking to publish research outputs in journals and platforms that do not meet the requirements of their funder (and may have already been rejected for funding from the relevant grant).

Transformative agreements will be adopted where they provide the best value for money and will be managed to provide the maximum benefit for the University.

The background to the new policy and the full text of the principles can be found below. If you have questions about the principles or how they are applied, please contact openaccessfund at warwick dot ac dot uk in the first instance.

Principles for the allocation of Open Access funding

Context

Since 2013, researchers have been able to access several sources of funding to support the cost of publishing original research articles as Open Access. These include:

Block grants from research funding bodies

The University currently receives block grants from UKRI (on behalf of the seven UK Research Councils) and the Wellcome Trust. The block grants can be accessed by any author who acknowledges one or more of the relevant funders in their article. These grants are overseen and managed on behalf of the University by the Library in conjunction with Research Finance.

Open Access provision from other funding bodies

Several other research funders, including the ERC, NIHR, Gates Foundation and the former COAF partners, make provision for the payment of Article Processing Charges (APC) via means other than block grants. The mechanisms for this vary, but usually APCs are paid by the author either through the grant or through the funder. This funding is not managed or overseen by the Library.

The Library Open Access fund

This is mainly reserved for membership and discount schemes and, more recently, to contribute to the cost of transformative agreements. However, a small number of awards are made each year to authors publishing in fully Open Access journals who are not eligible for funding via the routes above. This fund is overseen and managed by the Library.

Other sources of funding

Authors may also receive funding from elsewhere within the University. This might come from:

  • Centrally administered funds held outside of the Library, which may be used to support Open Access publishing. Past examples include the Institutional Research Support Fund (IRSF) (the temporary replacement for RDF during 20/21) and the Humanities Research Fund (HRF). These funds are managed outside of the Library according to their own criteria and policies
  • Departmental funds which are overseen and managed by the departments and have been used to cover open access and other publication fees where other sources of funding were not available

Until the 2020-21 grant year, the block grants received from UKRI (formerly RCUK) and COAF (which came to an end in September 2020) have been sufficient to cover all eligible costs.

Current policy

Since they were first awarded in 2013 and 2014 respectively, the RCUK / UKRI and COAF block grants have always been administered on a ‘first come, first served’ basis. This principle was established by the predecessor of the Open Research Group and has been reaffirmed since then. Requests for funding have usually been granted providing the costs are permitted under the terms of the award. These include article processing charges (APCs) in both fully Open Access and hybrid journals, publication costs and page and colour fees. In some cases, page and colour charges have been paid from the UKRI block grant for articles which have not been made Open Access via the gold route (which is permitted in specific circumstances, see RCUK Policy on Open Access FAQs 3.8).

Current situation

For the first time in 2020/21, the UKRI block grant was fully exhausted prior to the end of the grant year. Several factors have contributed to this:

  • A year on year decline in the level of award
  • A sustained year on year increase in demand since the start of the grant
  • A significant increase in the number of transformative agreements. These have an additional cost which the Library has been unable to absorb

The UKRI block grant was renewed for 2021-22 and, once again, was less than for the previous year. There is also uncertainty around whether the block grant will continue in its current form post-2021-22, when the anticipated new UKRI Open Access policy comes into effect.

There is clearly a need to take proactive measures to manage the block grant and also to take into account the wider context. This includes:

  • The general direction of travel away from the subscription model of academic publishing and towards a more open model being driven, at least in part, by Plan S
  • Changes to funder policies, in many cases to align with the Plan S principles. This includes the current Wellcome Trust and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation policies. UKRI are also expected to align with Plan S when their new policy is announced
  • The proliferation of transformative agreements designed to ‘flip’ the predominant model from subscription to Open Access

The following principles have been developed by the Library and the Open Research Group in conjunction with the University Research Committee and were approved by Senate on 16 June 2021. They will be implemented for all centrally administered Open Access funds. It is recommended that a similar approach is adopted for departmental funds.

The principles

The six principles outlined below are designed to make the most from all potential sources of funding to allow as many Warwick-affiliated authors as possible to publish Open Access, whilst at the same time giving preference to the authors of funded work and those eligible for the Research Excellence Framework exercise (REF), and without undermining the aims of Plan S.

These principles align with and draw upon current best practice across the Higher Education sector, including the Plan S principles, guidelines from JISC used in transformative agreement negotiation and the output types and open access required by the current REF open access policy.

It is expected that the open access policies of both the UKRI and the REF-after-REF2021 will be announced shortly. These principles will be evaluated to ensure they meet the requirements of these new policies as soon as they are published.

 1. Priority will be given to original research articles in peer-reviewed journals and conference proceedings

This follows the current policies of research funders. Uninvited / non-commissioned reviews and articles in non-peer reviewed conference proceedings will be considered only if the funder’s policy requires these are made Open Access. Other article types may be considered for institutional (not block grant / Library) funding, if the author is able to make a strong case that the output will be eligible for submission to the REF-after-REF2021. Only original research articles will be authorised to be made open access via transformative agreements. Other output types will only be accommodated if the funder’s policy requires they be made open access.

Long form or book open access charges are currently included in funders’ policies as a separate issue and funded separately. It is proposed that this approach is continued at the present time. However, this position would need to be revised in response to changing institutional priorities and funding, as well as, changing funder requirements.

 2. Priority will be given to articles being published in fully Open Access journals

The priority for all centrally administered sources of funding is to fund article processing charges in ‘gold’ Open Access journals. Fund administrators may, due to the level of funding available to allocate, reserve the right to only support these types of charges. This will allow continued support for articles that would not be able to be published without funding.

Open Access publishing in ‘transformative journals’ will be supported in line with the guidelines of the research funder and once they become fully open access. Publication in hybrid journals will only be funded from centrally administered block grants where it is not possible to meet funder compliance via the green route.

 3. Priority will be given to the payment of articles processing charges

The block grants will not be used to pay page and colour charges, even if the funder’s policy permits this. Publication fees will only be paid if the terms of the fund allow and the article cannot otherwise be published, e.g., where a journal levies a publishing fee and a separate ‘top-up’ fee for OA. Authors will be encouraged to resist these charges in the first instance. We acknowledge that certain funders, such as Horizon Europe, allocate funding directly to a project and that other central funds may be used to pay these additional charges, depending on the policy of the specific fund. But for the block grants, priority will be given to those applications where the output will be eligible for submission to the REF-after-REF2021.

 4. Priority will be given to members of academic staff with a contract of employment with the University

While applications for funding will be considered in the order they are received, priority will be given to corresponding authors who meet the eligibility criteria for submission to the REF-after-REF2021 at the time of application (this should be assumed to be on the same basis as REF2021 until new guidance is provided by Research England). Where an article is eligible for support from one of the block grants, an award will be based on the eligibility of the paper, regardless of the status of the author. However, where the corresponding author is not affiliated with Warwick, they will be encouraged to seek support from their home institution in the first instance.

Research students who are on research student contracts and are the corresponding author on a research paper will be funded where possible with the support of their Head of Department.

Where Emeritus staff not on REF-eligible contracts are the corresponding author on a research paper, these will only be funded in exceptional circumstances with the support of the chair of the Open Research Group.

Due to pressure on transformative agreements, many of which have a ‘cap’ on the number of articles that can be published, research by honorary and visiting staff, NHS staff who do not have a separate contract of employment with the University, and Emeritus staff not on REF-eligible contracts, will not be supported.

 5. Transformative agreements are a new way to manage funding. They will be adopted where they provide the best value for money and managed to provide the maximum benefit for the University

The Library, with advice from the Open Research Group where necessary, will evaluate transformative agreements and will only enter into them when the agreement provides good value for money.

The Library will manage all such arrangements, many of which allow the funding of open access for papers of both funded and non-funded research, to ensure that they provide the maximum benefit for the University. However, authorisation may be limited to funded authors only, if ‘credits’ are running low, or the cap is about to be reached. If this occurs, the restriction will be communicated as soon as possible.

 6. Central funds will not be used to pay Open Access charges or other publishing fees where authors seek to publish papers in a journal that does not meet the requirements of their acknowledged funder

For example, a Wellcome Trust author publishing in a hybrid journal.

Some funders will continue to pay article processing and other publishing charges in transformative journals during the period of transition. However, if the journal is not transformative – or the funder is not willing to cover these costs – centrally administered funds cannot be used to make the article available via the gold route and the Plan S Rights Retention Strategy should be used instead. Paying OA fees in these circumstances will not meet the funder’s requirements and also risks undermining the key Plan S principle not to support the hybrid publishing model.

Application of the principles

Wherever possible, these principles will be applied to all centrally managed open access funds, except where they are explicitly in opposition to the policy of a research funder. In such cases the determining factor would be the terms of the grant that had been issued to the University.

If you have questions about the principles or how they are applied, please direct questions to openaccessfund@warwick.ac.uk in the first instance.

Transformative agreements

The University currently has the following Transformative Agreements with publishers. Please note that some journals may not be included, even if they appear to meet the criteria for the scheme; this is particularly true of the smaller society journals, which may have different policies to the host publisher. Authors should check their chosen journal is eligible before proceeding.

All transformative agreements are subject to the principles outlined above. The seven UK Research Councils are AHRC, BBSRC, EPSRC, ESRC, MRC, NERC and STFC and the former COAF partners are Arthritis Research UK, Blood Cancer UK, the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, Parkinson’s UK, and the Wellcome Trust.

A comprehensive list of all current publisher agreements is in development. In the meantime, please contact openaccessfund at warwick dot ac dot uk for more information and to confirm eligibility.