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New Open Access policy for NIHR funded researchers

The NIHR has today announced its new Open Access policy, requiring all peer-reviewed research articles arising from NIHR-funded research studies to be made immediately open access under an open licence. 

In line with the Government’s commitment to Open Access, which “requires that research outputs funded by the UK government are freely available to the taxpayer who funds research” (R&D Roadmap), this new policy will allow evidence from NIHR funded research to be freely accessed and used across the health and social care system, empower patients and the public, and drive further innovation globally.

Based on extensive engagement with stakeholders, including members of the public, and review of evidence, NIHR has developed a new policy that will ensure that NIHR funded research findings are freely accessible, discoverable and reusable to all, including through Europe PMC. This change will apply to all peer-reviewed articles submitted for publication on or after 1 June 2022. 

Lord Kamall, Minister for Innovation, said: “The UK is a world leader in health research – from helping us tackle COVID-19 to improving the way we deliver care.

 “This wealth of research should be accessible to everyone, to help fuel innovation and development in healthcare around the world.

 “As a result of this, everyone will be able to access NIHR funded research more easily, leading to more innovation and opportunities. It also meets our commitment to ensure government funded research is available to the public.“  

Professor Lucy Chappell, CEO of the NIHR and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Department of Health and Social Care, said: “The revised NIHR Open Access policy will ensure that the peer-reviewed research of NIHR funded researchers has the widest possible and immediate impact. This will benefit patients, the public, NIHR researchers, and health and social care practitioners, regardless of institutional affiliation. It means the translational research that the NIHR funds can have the greatest impact to enable people in the UK and across the world to live healthier, longer lives.

“I would like to thank all the NIHR funded researchers, patients and the public, and others in the research community who gave their time to share their views on open access and the NIHR open access policy. These views helped shape the new policy to ensure it works for the breadth of our diverse stakeholder community.” 

The new policy will increase the number of NIHR funded articles published immediately open access. 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 this policy. Guidance on open access funding eligibility and process will be published by March 2022. 

The review

The change to the NIHR Open Access policy follows an extensive review of the existing policy and is underpinned by evidence gathered during the review to make sure the policy is fit for the future across the breadth of NIHR’s portfolio and its broad stakeholder community. 

In Autumn 2020, NIHR launched a six-week survey on options for the future of NIHR OA policy, which received more than 400 responses from a wide range of stakeholder groups. In addition to the survey, the review has gathered evidence from a diversity of sources and proactively engaged with numerous NIHR stakeholders.

In particular, we held public contributor workshops to capture the views of patients, carers, service users and the public on this agenda; hosted a roundtable for health and social care organisations in collaboration with Health Education England (HEE); and, in collaboration with the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), commissioned an independent report on the challenges and opportunities of OA in Low- and Middle-Income Countries.

Supporting actions

To support NIHR funded researchers to understand the requirements of the revised OA policy, ahead of the policy implementation date NIHR will develop policy guidance and supporting tools in collaboration with the research community. These will give simple steps to comply with the policy and provide clear routes for support.

We will actively seek feedback  from the community and take this learning to inform the development of our processes, communications, guidance and supporting tools in the longer term. 

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.

For more information, read the new policy and the underpinning evidence and rationale.