RCUK to provide some universities with a block grant for open access publishing costs

open access logo, Public Library of ScienceWe’ve added posts to the Blog previously about the outcome of the Finch Report (Accessibility, sustainability, excellence: how to expand access to research publications) (access previous posts here) which was published on 18th June 2012 and came out of the Working Group on Expanding Access to Published Research Findings, chaired by Dame Janet Finch. On 16th July 2012 the Government announced that it has accepted the recommendations of the report. The report recommended a balanced programme of action to enable more people to read and use the publications arising from research, and to accelerate the progress towards a fully open access environment, particularly for all government-funded research.

Upon publication, the Report generated some negative reaction from Russell Group institutions concerned about the cost implications given the output of their staff and the high proportion of RCUK funding they receive. The Government has responded to this by providing funding to some institutions to support the costs of OA publishing. This approach so far has been two-fold:

1)    In September 2012 the Government announced funding of £10 million, understood to have come out of budget underspends, to support a number of research-intensive universities to kick-start the transition to OA publishing and setting up funds to meet the costs of APCs (Read the BIS announcement here: http://news.bis.gov.uk/Press-Releases/Government-invests-10-million-to-help-universities-move-to-open-access-67fac.aspx). The funding will support 30 institutions, selected on the basis of their combined QR funding and RCUK income. BU did not meet the threshold and will unfortunately not receive any funding from this initiative.

2)    In November 2012 RCUK announced block grant funding to support selected universities to support open access publishing costs from RCUK-funded grants (read the RCUK announcement here: http://www.rcuk.ac.uk/media/news/2012news/Pages/121108.aspx). Payments will be made from April 2013 to March 2015, with a mid-term review to assess the system is working. Grants have been calculated for individual universities based on the proportion of direct labour costs awarded on grants that they have received from April 2009 to March 2012. These labour costs have been used as a proxy of research effort leading to the generation of publications. Only universities that are eligible for a block grant of £10k or more will receive funding. RCUK have confirmed that unfortunately BU does not meet the threshold of £10k and will not receive any funding from this initiative.

Although BU has missed out on both block grants we are continuinging to support open access publishing, supported by a central, dedicated budget specifically set up to pay open access publication fees (BU Open Access Publication Fund). This has been live since April 2011; its use will continue to be monitored and the budget increased to cover the increasing demand from BU academics wishing to publish via open access routes.  There is no doubt that this fund will need to grow substantially over the next few years to cater for the changes in train.

Green open access publishing is of course possible using our own institutional repository BURO which is now even more accessible given the new interface provided by BRIAN which tells academics the publisher’s rules on self-archiving for each output when they log into the system; it is hoped this will increase the proportion of full-text articles available in BURO.

BU is encouraging all academics to continue to embrace open access publishing at least as part of the dissemination strategy for all current grants and to ensure that they bid for open access funds as part of future grants as this becomes possible (it is already possible with some funders, including Research Councils).