UK Government to open up publicly funded research

The UK government has made a commitment that all publicly funded research should be published under an open access model, with no paywalls preventing academics, businesses or the public from reading the research.

The Government will widely accept the recommendations in a commissioned report on open access by Dame Janet Finch, a move which is likely to see a major increase in the number of taxpayer funded research papers freely available to the public.

Currently most formally published research is only available behind restricted paywalls. Reforms will see publications opened up to a greater audience, providing more opportunities for research and development across a range of sectors. They will also support the commercial exploitation of research, contributing to the Government’s economic growth agenda.

Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said, “Removing paywalls that surround taxpayer funded research will have real economic and social benefits. It will allow academics and businesses to develop and commercialise their research more easily and herald a new era of academic discovery. This development will provide exciting new opportunities and keep the UK at the forefront of global research to drive innovation and growth.”

Our colleagues at the UK SMC collected the following expert commentary. Feel free to use these quotes in your reporting. If you would like to contact a New Zealand expert, please contact the SMC (04 499 5476;

Dame Janet Finch said:

“I am very encouraged that the Government has accepted the recommendations of our report. I am sure that other members of the working group will echo this. Exploiting the power of the internet to make the latest research findings accessible to everyone who has an interest in them – from business to voluntary organisations and ‘citizen scientists’ – is critically important for a vibrant economy and a healthy society.

“I particularly welcome the Government’s support for ‘Gold’ open access publishing as part of a balanced package of measures; and the new arrangements announced today by Research Councils UK to provide funding for article publishing charges (APCs). Although I recognise that we are in a period of financial stringency, the Government has endorsed to huge economic potential of this move. I therefore hope that this will be taken into account in the next round of funding allocations to research funders and to universities.

“A full transition to open access will take some time, and all the key stakeholders – Government, funders, universities, researchers and publishers – will need to continue to work together to ensure that we proceed in an ordered way, maximising the benefits and minimising the risks. It’s also important that the UK should work with international partners to accelerate the pace of transition not just in the UK but across the world. But the changes announced today mark an important step towards the goal of access for everyone to the work produced by the UK’s world-leading researchers.”

Comment from Nature Publishing Group

“Nature Publishing Group welcomes the UK Government’s acceptance of the detailed recommendations of the Finch Working Group. We are pleased that David Willetts highlights the “genuine value in academic publishing which has to be reflected”.?

“We also welcome the Research Council UK’s (RCUK) announcement today that they will make centralised funding available to institutions for the payment of open access publication charges (APCs). NPG urges RCUK funding bodies to quickly clarify the process for allocating funds to UK institutions, so that they can establish procedures and make the transition towards gold open access as smooth as possible for funded researchers.  NPG is committed to serving scientists and the advance of science and will therefore aim to collaborate closely with funders and institutions to achieve an orderly transition.??

“NPG’s Scientific Reports is compliant with the RCUK policy on gold open access, which comes into effect in 2013. NPG’s existing self-archiving policy is already fully compliant with the RCUK’s new policy, encouraging self-archiving for (green) public access six months after publication. Therefore, authors publishing in all our journals will continue to be compliant in 2013 and beyond. NPG offers a free archiving service of accepted manuscripts into UK PubMed Central for RCUK and Wellcome Trust funded authors.?”


Sir Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome Trust, said:

“The Wellcome Trust strongly supports the new Research Councils UK policy, and the leadership that RCUK continues to take in ensuring that the outputs of research funded from the public purse are made freely available. These outputs may then be accessed and used in ways that maximise their benefit to society.  We are particularly pleased that the Research Councils will provide more flexible funding arrangements to help researchers secure the funds to cover open access publication fees.

“We also welcome the requirement that, where Research Council funds have been used to pay open access fees, papers must be made available under the Creative Commons, Attribution licence (CC-BY), which allows content to be re-used for both commercial and non-commercial purposes, subject only to appropriate attribution.  This is in line with recent changes to our own open access policy, and we will be working in partnership with the Research Councils over the coming months to implement this requirement.

“We applaud the steps that HEFCE is taking towards ensuring that research outputs submitted for inclusion as part of future Research Excellence Framework (REF) exercises must be made widely available. As REF has such a significant impact on university research, this move will send a strong signal to the research community and will play a significant role in accelerating the transition towards open access.”