Major U.K. science funder to require grantees to make papers immediately free to all

Read the full story in Science.

The United Kingdom currently has one of the highest rates of open-access publication in the world, with many researchers posting their research papers on websites that make them publicly available for free. But the country’s leading funding agency today announced a new policy that will push open access even further by mandating that all research it funds must be freely available for anyone to read upon publication.

The policy by the funder, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), will expand on existing rules covering all research papers produced from its £8 billion in annual funding. About three-quarters of papers recently published from U.K. universities are open access, and UKRI’s current policy gives scholars two routes to comply: Pay journals for “gold” open access, which makes a paper free to read on the publisher’s website, or choose the “green” route, which allows them to deposit a near-final version of the paper on a public repository, after a waiting period of up to 1 year. Publishers have insisted that an embargo period is necessary to prevent the free papers from peeling away their subscribers.

But starting in April 2022, that yearlong delay will no longer be permitted: Researchers choosing green open access must deposit the paper immediately when it is published. And publishers won’t be able to hang on to the copyright for UKRI-funded papers: The agency will require that the research it funds—with some minor exceptions—be published with a Creative Commons Attribution license (known as CC-BY) that allows for free and liberal distribution of the work.

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