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NIHR Open Access publications funding guidance


Published: 24 March 2022

Version: 2.0 June 2022

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As set out in the NIHR Open Access publications policy (the ‘Open Access policy’), when an Open Access payment is applicable, NIHR will pay reasonable fees required by a publisher to effect publication in line with the criteria of the NIHR Open Access policy.

The purpose of this guidance is to set out the terms and processes for accessing Open Access publication funding for those contracted by the NIHR. The guidance should be used in conjunction with the NIHR Open Access policy and may be subject to change from time to time.

Requests concerning Open Access funding can be made using an NIHR Open Access request form.

What do the Open Access funds cover?

NIHR Open Access funds can only be used to cover Open Access costs of articles which are in scope of the NIHR Open Access policy and which are published in line with the criteria of the policy. The scope and conditions of the NIHR Open Access policy can be found in the policy document as linked above.

These costs include:

  • Article Processing Charges (APCs) and charges via other types of funding models (e.g. membership fees) that enable the publication of NIHR funded articles in fully Open Access journals and platforms.
  • APCs that enable the publication of NIHR funded articles in subscription journals, where some articles are published behind a paywall but the publisher also provides a compliant paid open access option (regardless of whether the journal participates in a transitional agreement);
  • Contributions towards the publishing element of Jisc-approved transitional agreements that enable the publication of NIHR funded articles in subscription journals, where some articles are published behind a paywall but the publisher also provides a compliant paid open access option.

Submission fees will only be funded if they result in the Open Access publication of an article.

The allocated Open Access funds cannot be used to cover:

  • non Open Access charges associated with publication, for example page and colour charges and non-Open Access publication fees;
  • Open Access fees associated with publications outside the scope of the Open Access policy, such as book chapters, monographs, edited collections, or any forms of non-peer-reviewed material; and/or
  • any other research associated costs.

Where it is relevant and appropriate:

  • transitional agreements or publishing discounts should be utilised;
  • eligible APC costs should be split with other research funders, in line with the funders' relative contributions to the research described in the publication.

In order to support the NIHR Open Access policy, NIHR will make funds available to support the fees payable to a publisher to effect publication in line with the criteria of the Open Access policy. NIHR expects award holders to be aware of the costs of publishing in different journals, and to consider value for money when deciding how to allocate the NIHR Open Access funding.  

The Contractor is responsible for ensuring that the NIHR Open Access funding envelope is allocated efficiently taking into account value for money, the total costs and equity of access, supporting the principles of equality, diversity and inclusion. Provided that the Contractor can demonstrate that the allocation of the NIHR Open Access funding has taken these factors (and any other relevant factors) into account, the Contractor can exercise its own discretion when deciding how to apportion the allocated NIHR Open Access funding envelope.

NIHR Infrastructure, including Research Units and Schools

For NIHR Infrastructure awards, including NIHR research units and schools, in scope of the Open Access policy, Open Access costs will continue to be budgeted and earmarked by applicants at application stage. Costs for Open Access must now be entered and reported as a separate item on the finance form”. Contractors are expected to manage Open Access funding equitably, transparently, and in accordance with the Open Access policy throughout the duration of the award.

For active contracts that are budgeted based on the previous Open Access policy scope, where relevant and appropriate, additional funding can be requested through an NIHR Open Access request form. Decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis at NIHR’s sole discretion.

NIHR Programmes, Personal Awards and the Global Health Research Portfolio

From 1 June 2022 all eligible research award contracts issued across NIHR Programmes, NIHR Personal Awards and NIHR Global Health Research Portfolio will have an Open Access funding envelope allocated to them, on top of the approved cost of the award, which is ring-fenced for Open Access costs to support contractors with the implementation of the NIHR Open Access policy (see Annex for a list of eligible NIHR schemes). As Open Access funding envelopes will be automatically allocated to successful research awards, from 1 April 2022 researchers will no longer be required to predict Open Access costs at application stage and from this date researchers cannot include Open Access costs as part of their application form.

For active awards which contracted before 1 June 2022, or for applications which have already included Open Access costs in their budget but are due to be contracted after 1 June 2022, budgeted Open Access costs will be retained as part of the award for use on Open Access, and no additional Open Access funding envelope will be allocated to these contracts. The budgeted Open Access costs will be treated in an equivalent manner to the Open Access funding envelopes in terms of NIHR processes, including requests for additional funding, described at sections 3.2 to 3.6 (see contents) throughout the award and following its completion.

How is the Open Access funding allocated?

The value of the Open Access funding envelope which will be applied to contracts issued from 1 June 2022 is based on a standardised approach that is benchmarked against other major UK research funders, which takes into account the size of the award and historic publishing patterns of NIHR awards. The size of the envelope will be calculated based on the full cost of the award and be subject to existing NIHR rules with respect to Full Economic Cost (FEC). This envelope can only be used to cover Open Access publication costs (as set out above). It cannot be used for other research costs associated with the award.

From the implementation of the revised policy on 1 June 2022, NIHR will keep these arrangements under review.

How to access the Open Access funding during the research period?

Contractors should manage and spend funds for Open Access publishing costs in the same way that they would for any other agreed costs under their contract.

Awards with contracts issued before 1 June 2022 should use the open access budget included in their overall research costs.

How to access the Open Access funding after the award close date?

Once the award/project has ended, any remaining Open Access funds will remain available to cover the Open Access costs of publications in scope of the policy for up to 2 years after the contract completion date.

Post financial reconciliation, the award holder should notify NIHR through an NIHR Open Access request form if further open access spend occurs to enable reimbursement to the contractor.

NIHR expects a 2 year period to be sufficient for the majority of research projects. This timeframe aligns with the NIHR policy on clinical trial registration and disclosure of results and follows principles of good practice in the management and conduct of health and social care research as set out in the UK Policy Framework for Health and Social Care Research, which sets the expectation that research findings are published in a timely manner after the research has finished. However, the NIHR acknowledges that publication in a peer-reviewed journal or platform is not within the complete control of the research team. Funding for publications beyond 2 years after contract completion will only be available by exception and for a maximum of 5 years post contract completion date. Contractors should make a request through an NIHR Open Access request form to extend the funding period and it will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

What happens if the Open Access funding is depleted?

The amount of the Open Access funding envelope has been pre-determined based on multiple data sources, extensive analysis and in consultation with Programme Directors and the Academy Dean. As such, NIHR expects the envelope to be sufficient for the majority of awards and expects researchers, when spending their allocated Open Access funding, to consider value for money, the total costs, and equity of access, supporting the principles of equality, diversity and inclusion.

However, in the event that further Open Access funds are required once the allocated Open Access envelope (or budgeted Open Access costs) has been spent for the award, the Chief Investigator/main applicant can apply for top up funding through an NIHR Open Access request form. Requests for additional funding can only be made in relation to active contracts.

NIHR will aim to respond to requests within 5 working days and decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis at the NIHR’s sole discretion. Where approved by the NIHR, underspend under the contract is likely to be reallocated by the NIHR before any additional funding is made available. Please note that there is no guarantee that additional funding will be provided. It is the responsibility of the Chief Investigator/main applicant to ensure that funds are requested in good time to secure funding for Open Access publication when the Open Access envelope has been depleted.

What happens if the Open Access funding is not used?

If the allocated Open Access funding is not used for any reason, NIHR reserves the right to recover any such allocated funds.

What are the reporting expectations?

Financial reporting mechanisms for Open Access expenditure will be in line with existing reporting mechanisms for other expenditure under the contract.

NIHR requires that all publications arising from the research it funds include the NIHR award reference. When submitting articles to journals for publication and consistent with the NIHR research contract and the NIHR Open Access policy, authors must follow the NIHR’s guidance on how to acknowledge NIHR in research outputs. This will allow publication-level monitoring to take place against existing sources of publication data.

NIHR reserves the right to request financial records (e.g. publisher invoices) and/or other information to audit individual publication payments against reported Open Access expenditure.

NIHR will be closely monitoring its Open Access expenditure to ensure it provides value for money as part of broader public investment in research and reserves the right to review and update this guidance from time to time.

Contact us

For any queries about the NIHR Open Access policy or related funding guidance please contact

Annex - List of schemes that will have an open access envelope allocated to from 1 June 2022

Research Programme

  • Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation (EME)  
  • Evidence Synthesis Programme
  • Health and Social Care Delivery Research (HSDR)   
  • Health Technology Assessment (HTA)   
  • Invention for Innovation (i4i)   
  • Programme Development Grants (PDG)   
  • Programme Grants for Applied Research (PGfAR)   
  • Public Health Research (PHR)   
  • Policy Research Programme (PRP)   
  • Research for Patient Benefit (RfPB)

NIHR Personal Awards

  • Doctoral Fellowship
  • Doctoral Local Authority Fellowship (DLAF)
  • Advanced Fellowship
  • Research Professorship
  • Global Research Professorship
  • HEE/NIHR Doctoral Clinical and Practitioner Academic Fellowship (DCAF)
  • HEE-NIHR Integrated Clinical and Practitioner Academic Fellowship (ACAF)

NIHR Global Health Research Portfolio

  • Research on Interventions for Global Health Transformation (RIGHT) Programme
  • Global Health Policy and Systems Research
  • Global Health Research Units
  • Global Health Research Groups
  • Global Health Research Centres