NIHR open access policy


We support the principle of open access to the outputs of research, which 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.

As one of the original funders of Europe PMC, the NIHR has had an open access policy since 2006. Our current 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. 

Originally launched in January 2007 (as UKPMC), Europe PMC 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 other members of Europe PMC's Funders Group.

The Department of Health (DH) and 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.


Our 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 1 April 2014, and which are published. NIHR Programme Managers in the Managing Centres monitor compliance with this policy.

Requirement of NIHR-funded researchers

  • DH and 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 1 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, DH and NIHR expect a period of transition until 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 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 is for applicable Article Processing Charges (APCs). However, it may be beneficial in the future for these funds to be used in cooperation with other research funders' approaches to Open Access. (For example RCUK's 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.

DH and 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, DH and NIHR also recognise 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.

  • DH and NIHR will continue to work with the other funders of Europe PMC and 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 DH 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 inform DH or 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, DH or NIHR may in exceptional and merited circumstance grant permission for the author to submit the paper for publication in such a journal.