2. The Changing Landscape of Open Access Mandates

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