NIHR Policy on Open Access for its funded research


The Department of Health (DH) and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) agrees with the other main biomedical research funders with the principal of Open Access to the outputs of its research. In doing so the DH recognises that open access to the outputs of its research can offer both social and economic benefits as well as aiding the development of new research and stimulating wider economic growth of the UK economy. The Government, in line with its overarching commitment to transparency and open data as well as part of its economic growth strategy, is committed to ensuring that published research findings should be freely accessible. As a publicly funded research body, the NIHR is subject to the requirement to make the outputs from its research publicly available – not just to other researchers, but also to potential users in business, charitable and public sectors, and to the general tax-paying public.

In common with the other Research Councils, and as one of the original funders of UK PubMed Central, the NIHR has had a policy on Open Access since 2006. This revised policy is in line with recent updates by the Research Councils and follows the Government’s response to the Finch Report “Accessibility, sustainability, excellence: how to expand access to research publication” published in 2013. The revisions to the NIHR policy are a direct result of the Government’s response to Finch Report and to ensure the NIHR remains in line with its partners in Europe PubMed Central. This revised approach continues to remain consistent with the long-standing policy set out in the Research Governance Framework, section 2.4 – Information

Originally launched in January 2007 (as UKPMC), Europe PubMed Central provides a permanent and free-to-access online digital archive of the full text, peer reviewed research publications (and datasets) that arise from research funded by DH, the NIHR and the other members of the Europe PMC Funders Group.

The DH and the NIHR continue to support the fundamental principles that:

  • Ideas and knowledge derived from publicly funded research must be made available and accessible for public use, interrogation and scrutiny as widely, rapidly and effectively as possible;
  • Published research outputs must be subject to rigorous quality assurance through effective peer review mechanisms;
  • The models and mechanisms for publication and access to research results must be both efficient and cost effective in the use of public funds;
  • The outputs from current and future research should be preserved and remain accessible for future generations.


This policy applies only to the publication of peer-reviewed research articles (including review articles not commissioned by publishers) and conference proceedings that acknowledge funding  from the National Institute for Health Research . The NIHR, in common with the other Research Councils has a preference for the “gold” approach to open access, recognising that this will be progressive over a period of time. NIHR Programmes will monitor compliance with this policy.


  • This policy applies to any peer-reviewed research articles (including review articles not commissioned by publishers, final reports or executive summaries), which are supported in whole or in part by  NIHR funding, that are submitted for publication from 1st April 2014 , and which are published.

Requirement of NIHR Researchers

  • The DH and the NIHR require that, NIHR funded researchers seek to publish their research outputs (as outlined in the scope) in a peer-reviewed journal that is compliant with the policy on Open Access

  • Where  NIHR funds are used to pay an Article Processing Charge (APC) it is expected that the publication should be published in a journal that makes the output  available using the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence, and allows immediate deposit of the final published version in other repositories without restriction on re-use. If this is not possible then the authors must reconsider the appropriateness of the original publication and how to comply with the point above.

    From the commencement of this policy (see above) the cost of APCs and other appropriate publication charges will be supported either through the original NIHR award, or where applicable an NIHR Open Access Fund. Researchers will need to contact the awarding NIHR Programme Coordinating Centre to review the correct approach. This does not apply to any recipient of NIHR funding prior to 1st April 2014, which remain under the requirements of their original contract.

  • None of the above should prevent NIHR funded authors from also depositing a copy in their own institutional or another subject-based repository should they choose to do so or be required to do so by their employing institution subject to any restrictions from the publishers.


In common with RCUK, the DH and the NIHR expect that there will be a period of transition towards the full implementation of the policy. In order to prevent confusion across the research community the NIHR has decided to match the time frame envisaged by RCUK, noting that this is dependent on how the Open Access landscape evolves over that period. We therefore expect to see NIHR funded researchers working towards full compliance by 2017/18 with 100% of research papers funded by the NIHR published in journals that are compliant with the policy on Open Access.

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is the world’s first health research funder to publish comprehensive accounts of its commissioned research within its own publicly and permanently available journal series. The NIHR Journals Library comprises a suite of five open access peer-reviewed journals reporting results from a range of health research areas. Studies funded under the following research programmes are eligible:

  • Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation (EME) Programme
  • NIHR Health Services and Delivery Research (HS&DR) Programme
  • NIHR Health Technology Assessment (HTA) Programme
  • NIHR Public Health Research (PHR) Programme
  • NIHR Programme Grants for Applied Research (PGfAR) Programme

The NIHR is establishing a fund to support the costs of Open Access publishing for NIHR funded research. Initially this will be for applicable Article Processing Charges (APCs). However, it may be beneficial in the future for these funds to be used in cooperation with other researcher funders approaches to Open Access.(For example RCUKs OA Block Grant). The NIHR reserves the right to review how the funds are being utilised in support of the best delivery of this policy, but expect researchers and research bodies to make the most cost effective use of funding.

The DH and the NIHR strongly encourage authors to publish in journals that allow them (or their institutions) to retain ownership of the copyright. In common with the RCUK policy, the DH and the NIHR also recognises that copyright in the manuscript itself would normally remain with the author and this will continue.

  • For the purposes of this policy the NIHR considers that the ‘content’ of a paper includes, but is not limited to, the text, data, images and figures within a paper

  • The DH and the NIHR will continue to work with the other funders of Europe PubMed Central and the wider Research Councils to ensure that the wider adoption of Open Access in the research community is managed in a sensitive and timely fashion. The NIHR acknowledges that there is the potential for individual funder’s Open Access policies to clash and it will work with all parties to ensure that the researcher is not inconvenienced.

  • The policy does not cover books, critical editions, volumes and catalogues, or forms of non-peer-reviewed material. However, the NIHR encourages authors of such material to consider making them Open Access where possible.

  • As part of supporting the drive for openness and transparency in research, and to ensure that researchers consider and plan for data access, the policy requires all NIHR researchers to prepare and submit to the NIHR a statement on how underlying research materials, such as data, samples or models, can be accessed.  The policy does not require that the data must be made open.

    In order to gauge progress towards the successful transition to the full implementation of the policy the Department will require the NIHR Programme Coordinating Centres to conduct reviews of-progress for the Programmes they are responsible for on an annual basis. This will enable the Department of Health to determine the direction of travel and the appropriateness of the timetable. Where at all possible any data collection will build on existing data collections or systems.

  • As part of its long standing commitment to Open Access the NIHR has purchased Supporters Scheme membership of BioMed Central. This entitles NIHR researchers to a 15% discount against any APC for a BioMed Central journal, though NIHR researchers remain free to approach any publisher within the scope of the wider policy.

The NIHR supports the recommendation of the Finch Report over the establishment by research organisations of Institutional Publication Funds to meet the costs of APCs for Open Access publishing.

  • Should a researcher informs the DH or the NIHR of their wish to publish a paper in a journal that is unwilling to agree either to the overarching aims of this policy, or to deposition in Europe PMC within six months, the DH or NIHR may in exceptional and merited circumstance grant permission for the author to submit the paper for publication in such a journal.