Funder and Institutional Open Access Mandates

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Funder and Institutional Open Access Mandates

1. Introduction to Funder and Institutional Open Access Mandates

This section covers funder mandates on Open Access and tools to support researchers to comply with the mandates.  The method of delivery is a mixture of text with PDF files and presentations, and occasional video files. 

On completion of this section, you will have a better understanding of funder Open Access mandates when publishing funded research output. 

Thinking points

  • Does your funder ask you to make your research output Open Access?
  • Do you have a clear understanding of your funder's Open Access mandates on making your research output publicly available?
  • Do you know where to find more information on your funder's Open Access mandates?

2. The Changing Landscape of Open Access Mandates

The open access mandate first made an appearance with the introduction of the University of Southampton, School of Electronics and Computer Science Open Access mandate in January 2003. 

There are two types of ‘mandate’: the full mandate that requires researchers to engage with open access and may be accompanied by penalties for failing to do so, and the milder ‘policy’ that, whilst still attempting to achieve the same end, tries to do it through encouragement and without the need for penalties.  At the same time, there are two ways in which researchers may find themselves subject to a mandate: as a condition of their funding organisation, or as a condition of their employment with an institution.  Continue to the next part to learn more about them.

2.1. Institutional Mandate

Many institutions, similar to Southampton, have introduced a mandate in the intervening years between 2003 to-date.  These usually take the form of a requirement to do the following:

  • Make publications that are a result of the research undertaken within the institution open access as soon as possible after publication
  • Deposit those publications into an institutional repository, taking into account copyright restrictions, as soon as possible after publication

The detail of the mandate will vary from institution to institution, depending on a number of factors including whether the institution has an institutional repository, whether there is a culture of self-archiving already in place that can be easily incorporated into the new mandate, and whether there is support for open access publishing and the costs involved.  However, at their core, all institutional mandates attempt to make as much of the research accessible as soon as possible within the current model of academic publishing.

Some important dates

  • June 2005 - The Russell Group, representing 19 major research universities that receive 60% of the research grants in the UK, issued a statement endorsing open access.
  • September 8, 2005 - Universities UK, representing all UK universities, issued a statement endorsing open access and the draft RCUK open-access policy.
  • 2009 - The 1st Conference on Open Access scholarly publishing takes place.
  • October 19-23, 2009 - International Open Access Week sparked large numbers of events, announcements and similar awareness-raising activities including a series of events at the University of Cambridge.  Highlights were Yale ISP Celebrating Open Access Week with New Research, the announcement of German Research Foundation Funding for University Author Funds, and a press release from the Wellcome Trust commenting on the Wellcome Trust wishing ‘to see a commitment from publishers to show the uptake of their open access option and to adjust their subscription rates to reflect increases in income from open access fees.’
  • January 2010 - Universities UK (UUK) supports open access for REF.  As part of the Universities UK response to HEFCE's consultation on the Research Excellence Framework, UUK's response contains the following endorsement of an open access approach to the assessment process: ‘UUK supports the move towards "open access" of research outputs and, although not mentioned in the consultation, would encourage the REF guidance to require that all submitted outputs are available through some form of open access mechanism. This would build on good research and information management practice. Work currently being undertaken by JISC and other stakeholders can support this process.’
  • August 4, 2010 - New study examines the economic returns of public access policies.
  • 2010 - Over 120 HE leaders and 40 Nobel laureates in the US announce public support for the Federal Research Public Access Act, first proposed in 2006.
  • September 7, 2012 - The UK Government Department for Business, Innovation and Skills announces a £10 million fund to higher education institutions to assist in the transition to open access research publishing.
  • April 6, 2012 - UNESCO releases Dr Alma Swan’s Policy Guidelines for the Development and Promotion of Open Access, a guide to help institutions understand how to put OA policies into place.


Developing an Institutional Open Access Policy (from OASIS: Open Access Scholarly Information Sourcebook)

Good Practices for University Open Access Policies by Stuart Shieber and Peter Suber

ROARMAP - Registry of Open Access Repositories Mandatory Archiving Policies created in 2003 at University of Southampton

2.2. Funder Mandate

Increasingly, funding organisations have been introducing policies with regard to the research they fund.  These policies often stem from the desire to increase the speed with which researchers have access to the results of research in order to gain greater return on the funded research, to generate new ideas for areas of research, and to be more easily able to share and build on research being undertaken.  For public funding bodies, such as the UK Research Councils, where funding comes from the public purse, there is an argument for making research that has been paid for by the public accessible to the public.  This is compelling and has generated great debate both in the UK and internationally.   Follow these links to some debates: Consensus is difficult in open-access debate, Framing the Open Access Debate, The pros and cons of Open Access, Your Invitation to the Open Access Debate, SPARC OA Forum.

Funding organisations have increasingly been investigating alternative publishing models where fees are paid upfront for publication, with the final published work then widely available to anyone who wishes to read it, reuse it, or build upon it.  There are significant cost implications for the wholesale move to paying for open access in this way, but there are policies already in operation where funding has been set aside to support, if not entirely cover, these costs (see statements from RCUK and The Wellcome Trust).

Some important dates

  • October 1, 2003 - The Wellcome Trust issues a position statement and research report endorsing open access. (SOAN for 10/2/03).
  • June 28, 2005 - The Research Councils UK released its draft open-access policy for a period of public comment to end on August 31, 2005. The policy would mandate open access to virtually all publicly-funded research in the UK. (SOAN for 7/2/05).
  • October 1, 2005 - The Wellcome Trust started implementing its new open-access mandate for Wellcome-funded research.
  • June 28, 2006 - The Research Councils UK (RCUK) issued its long-awaited open-access policy.  It lets the eight separate Research Councils go their own way, but on the day of the announcement, three had already decided to mandate open access to the research they fund. (See SOAN for 7/2/06).
  • October 1, 2006 - The year-old OA policy at the Wellcome Trust was extended to all outstanding grants, no longer how long ago they were awarded.
  • December 8, 2006 - The UK Office of Fair Trading concluded that the lack of OA to public data costs the country 500 million/year.
  • January 8, 2007 - Cancer Research UK pledged to adopt an OA mandate. It released its policy on May 21, 2007.
  • January 31, 2007 - The European Research Council revealed, in its grant application guidelines, that it will pay publication fees at fee-based OA journals.
  • June 2007 - The UK Medical Research Council added a data access policy to its larger open access policy.
  • September 6, 2007 - The UK Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) announced an OA mandate for AHRC-funded research.
  • February 11, 2009 - Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the last of the seven Research Councils UK, agreed to mandate open access publication to its researchers.
  • September 15, 2011 - The Working Group on Expanding Access to Published Research Findings (‘Finch’ Group) is formed, and tasked with examining how UK research can be made more openly accessible.
  • June 16, 2012 - The UK Government accept the findings of the Finch Report into publicly funded research. They accept ‘Gold’ access as a preference to ‘Green’ access routes. 
  • July 17, 2012 - Research Councils UK establishes policy mandating all research resulting from its funding to be published as open access, broadly in line with the findings of the Finch Report, and announcing new arrangements for meeting the costs of open access publishing.  This is widely criticised for expressing a preference for open access publishing whilst not providing enough funding to pay for it.
  • February 14, 2013 - The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR) bill mandates publicly-funded federal research to be published as open access.  The US Government has issued a Policy Memorandum that would also make open access a reality with or without FASTR becoming legislation.
  • April 1, 2013 - Research Councils UK open access policy comes into force: all publications resulting from RCUK-funded research will have to be made openly accessible.


Analysis of funder open access policies from around the world

The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR)

SHERPA/Juliet – research funders’ open access policies

2.3. Growth

The graph below, taken from OpenDOAR - Directory of Open Access Resources (, shows the number and type of mandates worldwide over the period 2003-to-date, demonstrating a steady increase in the use of the mandate to encourage and compel engagement with open access.  It also demonstrates the changing culture from departmental mandates to broader institutional and funder mandates.

3. Expanding Access to Published Research Findings: The Finch Report

What/Who is the Finch Group?

Dame Janet Finch, CBE chaired a research group tasked with investigating ‘Expanding Access to Published Research Findings’.  The group was active from October 2011 until it produced its report 'Accessibility, sustainability, excellence: how to expand access to research publications' in June 2012 - read the Executive Summary.  The recommendations of the group, as set out in the report, were accepted and published by the UK Government in July 2012.

How did it come about and who was part of the Group?

The group was formed out of a high level round table meeting held by the Minister for Universities and Science, The Rt Hon David Willetts MP.  You can find more information about the group and minutes of their meetings here.

What research did they carry out?

The Finch Group was set up to investigate models and methods for increasing access to research publications, collecting and reviewing evidence from the research, library, funding and publishing communities, with a view to producing guidance and recommendations based on the principles of access, usability, quality, and cost and sustainability.

Whilst the Terms of Reference of the Group included only peer reviewed journal article, conference papers and monographs, evidence concerning grey literature, reports and data are touched on in the report as being part of the wider mechanism of research communication.  The Group investigated the publishing landscape, the platforms under which research publications are made available, the shortcomings of these platforms, and the current situation with regard to copyright and licensing of content for reuse. 

3.1. Conclusions and Recommendations

What were the conclusions of the Group?

The Group concluded that open access initiatives presented the best method for widening access to research.  However, the Group placed a higher priority on author-pays open access publishing and the ways in which this could and should be costed and supported through research funding in preference to the self-archiving route to open access provided through institutional, subject and disciplinary repositories. 

In addition to this preference for author-pays, the Group also preferred short embargoes, or 12-24 months, for content that is self-archived in a repository.  However, it did support the removal of restrictions on reuse and recommended work be undertaken to remove the specific copyright restrictions that make text data mining permissions a very complicated process.


What were the recommendations?

The full recommendations can be found in section 8 of the full report here; below are some of the summary recommendations from the Executive Summary report.

The ones we are particularly interested in are recommendations 1-3:

1. a clear policy direction should be set towards support for publication in open access or hybrid journals, funded by APCs, as the main vehicle for the publication of research, especially when it is publicly funded;

2. the Research Councils and other public sector bodies funding research in the UK should – following the Wellcome Trust’s initiative in this area but recognizing the specific natures of different funding streams - establish more effective and flexible arrangements to meet the costs of publishing in open access and hybrid journals;

3. support for open access publication should be accompanied by policies to minimise restrictions on the rights of use and re-use, especially for non- commercial purposes, and on the ability to use the latest tools and services to organise and manipulate text and other content;

and 8-10:

8. universities, funders, publishers, and learned societies should continue to work together to promote further experimentation in open access publishing for scholarly monographs;

9. the infrastructure of subject and institutional repositories should be developed so that they play a valuable role complementary to formal publishing, particularly in providing access to research data and to grey literature, and in digital preservation;

10. funders’ limitations on the length of embargo periods, and on any other  restrictions on access to content not published on open access terms, should be considered carefully, to avoid undue risk to valuable journals that are not funded in the main by APCs. Rules should be kept under review in the light of the available evidence as to their likely impact on such journals.

3.2. Report and Impact Assessment

Report assessment - the good, the bad and the indifferent

There has been much criticism of the Finch Report, as it has become known, for the identified shortcomings and the missed opportunity to really bring about feasible and sustainable routes to open access.  The preference for paid open access models and the recommendation that the money to pay for it should be found from research funding, whilst ‘protecting’ current academic publishing models, has been heavily criticised both by researchers, who see this as a reduction in the available funding for actual research, and by open access advocates for its short-sighted refusal to recognise the input and feasibility of institutional repositories as a route to OA. 

The Group has also been criticised for its perceived protection of the academic publishing industry as it exists today due to its preference for paying for OA rather than advocating a mixed economy of paid and self-archiving.  Many researchers are now looking to a new academic publishing and communications model that would allow them to be more flexible, timely, and open about their research, whilst also maintaining their research edge.  Academics in diverse disciplines, for example Mathematics and the Humanities, are now investigating ways to move away from more traditional models of publishing in order to explore the alternatives in a similar way to Public Library of Science has provided open access publishing models to Science and Medicine.

It should also be noted that, whilst there was representation from the research, library, funding and publishing communities, there was no representation of the Open Access movement as such, and this may in part explain expressed preference for ‘gold’.


Impact assessment

Recommendations 1, 2, and 3  in the Finch Report have had the greatest impact on the move to open access so far, with widespread discussion and specific announcements geared towards meeting these recommendations within the UK. 

Research Councils UK and the Wellcome Trust each announced new, revised, policies in July 2012, implementing much stricter requirements on permissions relating to the reuse and distribution of publications produced as a result of funded projects.  The Wellcome Trust have for some time supported a preference for paid open access through provision of block grants to institutions with researchers holding a Wellcome research grant, and Research Councils UK have since followed suit announcing their own block grant scheme and putting in place a 5-year timeframe in which to meet their objectives.  RCUK have, however, recognised the significant input of institutional and other repositories in the Open Access movement, and whilst expressing a preference for paid open access, have also included a provision for meeting their policy through self-archiving of the accepted manuscript in a repository.  RCUK and Wellcome so far focus largely on the journal article and conference paper.

In addition to these, in September 2012, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills announced pump prime funding to be made available to the top 30 research intensive institutions in the UK with a view to preparing for the move to fully funded open access publishing.

3.3. Longer term view

Monographs have been on the open access agenda for some time, and there are a number of research projects underway investigating the opportunities.  There is little mention of monographs in the Finch Report, but the emergence of open publishing for books and monographs through platforms such as Open Book Publishers, Open Library of Humanities, and OAPEN can only help to move these opportunities forward.

The repository community asserts it still has a significant role to play in the Open Access movement, and in scholarly communication: that this is not, and should never be, limited to the collection of grey literature and research student theses.  Whilst there is no reason why these publications should not continue to be collected, institutions are best placed to collect all the publications of their research communities, reflecting the multi- and inter-disciplinary nature of the institution. 

Additionally, repository managers and developers should look to work at a national and international level to syndicate content in order to provide simple mechanisms to search and retrieve openly accessible content, making this the primary source of research publications in preference to the paid-for resources, thereby enabling that ‘inexorable’ shift to open access.

There is also a role here for Libraries in the better aggregation of research publications regardless of the source, providing simple services to enable researchers to stay up-to-date on the current literature in their field.

4. Research Councils UK's New Policy on Access to Research Outputs

Following the publication of the Finch Report by the Government, the seven Research Councils (RCUK) made this statement: 'Free and open access to publicly-funded research offers significant social and economic benefits.  The Government, in line with its overarching commitment to transparency and open data, is committed to ensuring that such research should be freely accessible.  As major bodies charged with investing public money in research, the Research Councils take very seriously their responsibilities in making the outputs from this research publicly available – not just to other researchers, but also to potential users in business, charitable and public sectors, and to the general public.' 

Following this statement, RCUK published their new policy on Open Access.  In essence, RCUK is mandating that every paper published as a result of research funded by them (i.e. funded by the public) has to be made Open Access following one of the Gold or Green Open Access publication routes with a relevant Creative Commons Licence attached to it and with an embargo period of no-longer than 6-24 months whenever applicable.

Read the full text of the new RCUK policy and suppoting guidance below (available at, which is effective from 1 April 2013.

5. An Essential Guide to Open Access for Wellcome Trust Funded Researchers

The Wellcome Trust has always been an Open Access advocate and has mandated that papers published as a result of research funded by them is published using an Open Access publication route.  It has entered into agreements with UK and US publishers to ensure that researchers complied with its Open Access mandates.

Following the Finch Report, however, The Wellcome Trust has gone even further and is asking, effective from 1 April 2013, all research papers produced as a result of their funding to have a commercial re-use permission attached if the publisher has been paid to publish the paper.  Read below The Wellcome Trust guide for researchers publishing a paper as a result of research funded by the Trust (available at

6. Complying with Funders' Open Access Mandates and Tools to Support Researchers

There are tools to help researchers with complying with their funders' Open Access mandates.  Find out more about them in the screen below (access the text version by following this link).

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