The NIHR has reviewed its Open Access policy for peer-reviewed research articles to make sure it is fit for the future across the breadth of NIHR’s portfolio and its broad stakeholder community. This review has now concluded and you can find the revised Open Access publication policy here. The revised policy applies to peer-reviewed research articles describing NIHR funded research findings submitted for publication on or after 1 June 2022 - and supersedes the NIHR Open Access policy introduced in 2014.
Following the announcement of the revised Open Access policy, the NIHR has worked with stakeholders to develop guidance and supporting tools, including policy guidance for more information on how to comply with the policy, and Open Access funding guidance for information on the terms and processes for accessing Open Access funding. We are working with the NIHR stakeholder community during the policy implementation phase and we can be reached directly via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Recognising the importance of all publicly funded research being made immediately Open Access, the revised policy increases the scope of peer reviewed research articles that must be published immediately Open Access. Where relevant and appropriate, additional funding can be requested for active contracts that budgeted based on the previous Open Access policy scope. For more information see the Open Access funding guidance . We are also exploring opportunities, by working with Jisc, for the NIHR-funded research community to access publishing transitional arrangements which support a sustainable transition to Open Access for the sector.
We recognise that Open Access to peer-reviewed research articles is only part of the solution to full accessibility to research findings for all and that there are various dissemination routes, with publishing peer-reviewed research articles being just one of these. We support a diversity of dissemination approaches to ensure that NIHR-funded research is widely accessible to a diversity of audiences to achieve maximal societal, academic and economic impact. You can find plain English summaries of our latest research at NIHR Evidence and the NIHR Journals Library. Alongside publishing our new open access policy, we have also published a statement on our commitment to assessing research on its own merits - the NIHR’s position on the responsible use of metrics.
Open Access makes published academic research freely, immediately and permanently available online for anyone to read and reuse. This in turn maximises the academic, societal and economic impact of research, and enhances the integrity and rigour of research through greater openness and transparency. The Government’s recent Research and Development Roadmap has reiterated its commitment to Open Access:
“We will require that research outputs funded by the UK government are freely available to the taxpayer who funds research. Such open publication will also ensure that UK research is cited and built on all over the world.”
NIHR has been reviewing its Open Access policy for peer reviewed publications to make sure it is fit for the future across the breadth of NIHR’s portfolio and its broad stakeholder community. The review included extensive engagement with stakeholders through an open survey, meetings, workshops and roundtables. The NIHR has also been working closely with other Government and charitable funders of research throughout the Open Access review - recognising the importance of cross-funder policy alignment for the research ecosystem.
NIHR Open Access policy change rationale
The NIHR Open Access policy is based on four principles:
- Principle 1 - Articles must be immediately, freely and openly accessible to all
- Principle 2 - There should be no barriers to the re-use and dissemination of NIHR funded articles
- Principle 3 - Articles must be freely discoverable
- Principle 4 - NIHR will pay reasonable fees to enable immediate open access
The below sets out the key changes we have made to the NIHR open access policy to better support these principles based on the Review evidence.
Scope of the revised policy
What publications the policy applies to
The revised policy requires ‘all’ peer-reviewed research articles describing the findings of in scope projects to be made immediately open access, rather than just the ‘main’ findings as per the previous policy. This change recognises the importance of all publicly funded research being made immediately open access. We also heard from researchers during the Review that it is very difficult to ascertain what ‘main’ means and that they cannot predict at the time of publishing, when the research is still ongoing, if there won’t be more significant findings later on.
When the revised policy comes into effect
The policy will apply to articles submitted on or after 1 June 2022. We consulted on a proposed implementation date of the policy for articles arising only from new NIHR awards from 1 April 2022. The analysis from the NIHR Open Access survey suggested that although the majority of stakeholders supported this implementation date, a significant proportion of stakeholders, and in particular patient and public contributors, indicated that NIHR should be more ambitious. To respond to this we decided to adopt an approach that the policy applies to both new and existing awards, however we moved the implementation date to 1 June 2022 to give stakeholders sufficient time from the policy announcement date to prepare for policy implementation.
Principle 1 - Articles must be immediately, freely and openly accessible to all
The revised policy increases the flexibility for how NIHR funded authors can comply with the NIHR open access policy by ensuring that either the Version of Record or Author Accepted Manuscript of in scope articles is made immediately open access through PubMed Central (PMC) / Europe PMC. This approach was strongly supported by stakeholders in the survey, with PMC/Europe PMC being the most common way for health and care professionals, NIHR research contributors and the general public to access research articles. However, it is important to note that the mandated use of these repositories should not prevent researchers from also depositing a copy in their institutional or another subject-based repository.
In response to recommendations from the report on Open Access in Low and Middle Income Countries to support local ownership of research articles, the revised policy will enable researchers funded through NIHR’s Global Health Research portfolio to deposit in scope articles into appropriate and sustainable local institutional, national or regional repository where available rather than PMC/Europe PMC.
Principle 2 - There should be no barriers to the re-use and dissemination of NIHR funded articles
In line with our previous policy, all in scope articles arising from NIHR funded research will need to be published under Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY), or Open Government Licence (OGL) where relevant. These licences allow anyone to read, share, and adapt the original material for free, as long as appropriate credit is given to the original author. This will ensure that there are no barriers to the re-use and dissemination of NIHR funded articles and their content, while preserving the moral rights of authors. We heard from stakeholders that in rare circumstances a more restrictive CC BY-Non Derivative License (CC BY-ND) might be more appropriate, for example for ethical reasons, and therefore the revised policy will enable this type of license by exception.
The ability for researchers to deposit their Author Accepted Manuscript into a repository with zero embargo relies on the Author Accepted Manuscript having an open licence applied to it. Publisher licensing policies typically put different constraints on Author Accepted Manuscripts, which are often restrictive and complex. Therefore, the revised policy will require authors to notify subscription journals at the point of submission of their licencing requirements to any resulting author’s accepted manuscript. This will ensure licensing expectations are clear between authors and publishers before authors enter into any publishing agreements.
While many stakeholders supported a requirement for authors or research organisations to retain copyright, on balance we consider our licensing requirements to be sufficient to meet the policy aims and facilitate compliance. However, we acknowledge that it is good practice for researchers and research organisations to retain the copyright to their work.
Principle 3 - Articles must be freely discoverable
The revised policy strengthens the Europe PMC requirements, so that all in scope articles must be made freely available through Europe PMC at the time of publication. Articles which are out of scope of the policy, but acknowledge NIHR funding, will need to be deposited and made freely available through Europe PMC no later than 12 months post-publication date. These changes will ensure that all NIHR-funded or supported research articles are freely accessible through a single platform - increasing the discoverability and long-term archiving of NIHR funded outputs.
Expectations on technical standards for journals and repositories in the revised policy are in line with the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)'s open access policy. They relate to most aspects of high-quality journals and repositories - supporting the findability, accessibility, interoperability and reuse of NIHR funded research articles, as well as machine readability and automation of processes such as compliance monitoring.
Principle 4 - NIHR will pay reasonable fees to enable immediate open access
The revised policy recognises that there are often costs associated with making research articles immediately open access and as such we will make reasonable financial provisions as part of the research contract to support researchers’ with policy implementation and compliance. In addition, as the proposed policy has a broader scope from the previous policy, relevant and appropriate, additional funding can be requested for active contracts which have under-budgeted for open access costs. Authors and their research organisations should read the open access funding guidance for information on the terms and processes for accessing open access funding.
NIHR recognises the role that publishing transitional arrangements play in achieving a sustainable and cost-effective transition to open access for the sector. NIHR is exploring opportunities, by working with Jisc, for the NIHR-funded research community to access publishing transitional arrangements. NIHR will monitor its open access publishing expenditure to ensure it provides value for money as part of broader public investment in research. In light of these considerations, NIHR will review its open access funding position by 2024.
The revised NIHR open access policy is underpinned by existing evidence base and evidence gathered throughout the review. The following reports were developed or commissioned to inform and support the policy review.
Stakeholder survey findings report
In Autumn 2020, we consulted on opportunities and barriers of open access, strengths and weaknesses of the current NIHR Open Access policy and gathered specific feedback on proposed policy options. Thank you to everyone who responded to the survey. We received more than 400 responses from a wide range of stakeholder groups. Read the survey findings report: NIHR Open Access Policy Review Stakeholder Survey Results.
Health and care sector subscription and publishing report
In collaboration with Health Education England (HEE), we commissioned a report by Information Power about publishing and publication procurement practices across the health and social care system and hosted a roundtable discussion for health and social care organisations. Read the report: Recommendations about publishing and publication procurement practices.
Economic Analysis Report
We commissioned York Health Economics Consortium (YHEC) to undertake an economic impact analysis of NIHR’s open access policy options. Read the report: Analysis of the economic impact of NIHR’s Open Access policy (.PDF).
Public contributor report
NIHR seeks to ensure that the public are at the centre of health and care research culture and systems. We recognise that public voices have not always been central to debates about open access publishing in health and care research, despite strong public interest in access to research findings - as funders, advocates, research contributors and participants, evidence users and beneficiaries. To address this, in October 2020 we held virtual workshops for public contributors to tell us what they think. The workshops explored how the public, patients, carers and service users feel about research being made openly available immediately. We would like to thank all the public contributors who participated in these workshops for their valuable contributions. Read the report Knowledge is Power: Public perspectives on Open Access publishing. We have also published a report setting out how public feedback informed the development of the revised NIHR Open Access Policy.
Report on Open Access in Low- and Middle-Income Countries
NIHR has a significant portfolio of Global Health Research which supports high-quality applied health research for the direct and primary benefit of people in low and middle-income countries (LMICs), using Official Development Assistance (ODA) funding. To address specific open access opportunities and challenges for this community, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, in collaboration with ourselves and UKRI, commissioned an independent consultation to explore the impact of open access on ODA funding and stakeholders in LMICs. Read the report: Open Access: challenges and opportunities for Low- and MiddleIncome Countries and the potential impact of UK policy (.PDF).