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Wellcome, transformative agreements and rights retention

Catherine Sharp5 March 2021

With the start of the new Wellcome open access policy this year, we began to see a change in the way UCL’s Wellcome-funded authors think about open access. Wellcome authors have always been very well-informed about the Wellcome’s policy. Now they’re taking note, before submission, of which journals have adopted a Wellcome-compliant policy. They’re telling us that this is playing a key part in their choice of journal.

Although this post is about the Wellcome policy, we expect other funders to introduce similar policies, and our transformative agreements are available to most UCL corresponding authors.  A number of European funders have already adopted the Plan S Rights Retention Strategy, which we’ll explain below.

Wellcome authors: can I publish gold open access?

Wellcome-funded papers can be published gold open access (open access on the publisher’s website, with the CC BY licence) where the journal is:

  1. fully open access (see the Directory of Open Access Journals)
  2. in one of our transformative agreements, or
  3. a transformative journal.

Other research papers can be made open access on publication, but most need to rely on the Wellcome’s Rights Retention Strategy.

To find out what options are available to you, and whether you can publish gold open access, start on our new Wellcome webpages, using the tools there to do a few quick checks.

  • If you’re thinking of submitting to a fully open access journal, the key thing is to make sure that it’s listed in DOAJ.
  • For subscription journals, start by checking our list of transformative agreements. We now have 25 agreements with a range of publishers, including small/society publishers like Bioscientifica, Portland Press, Company of Biologists and Future Science. They cover more than 6,200 journals.

The Journal Checker Tool that’s being developed (it’s available in beta at the moment) can help you to understand whether particular journals offer a compliant option, and if you need to rely on the fallback of the Rights Retention Strategy (see below).

Once you’ve used these resources, do get in touch with us if you’re not sure how to proceed.

“I want to submit to…”

Here are a few real-world examples of journals that authors have asked us about recently. Thanks especially to authors from ICH for most of these.

  • Nature Communications. This is a fully open access journal, listed in DOAJ. We can pay the charges, provided the paper meets our eligibility criteria.
  • Human Mutation. This is a subscription journal that’s included in our Wiley transformative agreement. You’ll find it in our list of journals in transformative agreements. We can pay the charges, provided the paper is eligible to use our transformative agreements (based on corresponding authorship and type of paper).
  • Genetics in Medicine. This is a subscription journal that’s just been added to our Springer transformative agreement.
  • British Journal of Psychiatry. This is a subscription journal. Although we don’t have a transformative agreement with the publisher, Cambridge University Press, the journal is listed as a transformative journal. We can pay the open access charges for Wellcome-funded papers that meet our eligibility criteria.
  • Archives of Disease in Childhood. This is a subscription journal that’s in our new BMJ transformative agreement. This agreement only applies to papers funded by UKRI, Wellcome or a small number of other medical funders.
  • Human Molecular Genetics. This is a subscription journal that’s included in our new Oxford University Press transformative agreement.
  • Bioscientifica journals, e.g. Journal of Endocrinology, Journal of Molecular Endocrinology, Endocrine-Related Cancer, European Journal of Endocrinology and Reproduction. These journals are included in our Bioscientifica transformative agreement.
  • Lancet subscription journals. Most Lancet journals are subscription journals. Although they don’t allow authors to make their accepted manuscripts open access in Europe PubMed Central on publication, Wellcome-funded authors retain the right to do this under the Wellcome’s Rights Retention Strategy (see below).

What are transformative journals? Are they the same as transformative agreements?

cOAlition S recognises journals as transformative if they meet specific criteria for transitioning to open access. This includes an annual increase in open access content of 5%, and a commitment to becoming fully open access when 75% of the content is published open access.

If a subscription journal is in one of our transformative agreements, the costs have been paid up front and authors can publish open access (provided the paper is eligible: this depends on things like the corresponding author’s affiliation and the type of paper.) If the journal isn’t in an agreement, but is considered a transformative journal, we can pay the open access charges if the paper is funded by a Wellcome grant held at UCL. This applies to 160 Elsevier journals, as well as Cambridge University Press journals.

How does Rights Retention work?

If you’re publishing in a subscription journal that isn’t in one of UCL’s transformative agreements, and isn’t a transformative journal, you’ll probably need to rely on Rights Retention. This isn’t necessary if your publisher allows immediate open access to the manuscript in an open access repository under the CC BY licence. Royal Society is an example of a publisher that allows this.

The Wellcome and Plan S Rights Retention Strategy gives authors a prior right, regardless of any publisher terms and conditions to the contrary, to make their accepted manuscripts open access on publication in an open access repository like Europe PubMed Central, with the CC BY licence. Contrary to what some publishers have been telling authors, it’s not possible for a publisher to override this permission, or for the author to waive the rights.

The author includes the Wellcome’s new mandatory text in their submission. If the article is published, the rights apply, and the author can deposit the paper in Europe PubMed Central on publication with the required CC BY licence.

All Wellcome-funded papers must now include the following statement when they submit to a journal. (You’ll find this on our webpages, too.)

This research was funded in whole, or in part, by the Wellcome Trust [Grant number]. For the purpose of Open Access, the author has applied a CC BY public copyright licence to any Author Accepted Manuscript version arising from this submission.

What about other funders?

UKRI will be announcing their new UKRI open access policy soon. There will be a review of the open access policy for the next REF (or a different future assessment exercise), but the current requirements will continue to apply until any new policy is announced.

We’ll keep advising authors on our transformative agreements, and on all types of open access, through all these changes. Our webpages have been completely overhauled to try to communicate, as clearly as possible, all the many policies, funding and opportunities to publish open access that affect UCL authors. We’ve just put the icing on the cake by launching a new home page that we hope will help you find your way around all this information as easily as possible.

New Year open access reflections

Catherine Sharp11 January 2021

Fireworks over Eiffel Tower.Whether you were tucked up in bed early on New Year’s Eve 2020, or come midnight enjoyed what limited indulgences are available nowadays, there’s no doubt that many of us are keen to put 2020 firmly behind us. Here in UCL’s Office for Open Science and Scholarship (OOSS) 2021 appears bright, with lots of exciting developments in open research and open access coming up; but we wanted to spend our first post of the new year unfashionably looking back, and highlighting some of the great things that happened in open access in 2020.

Without further ado, here’s a rundown of some of UCL’s 2020 open access highlights.

Finally – not a number, but an achievement for the Open Access Team nonetheless – we overhauled our open access funding webpages, Wellcome and other funders webpages, and in fact most of our online guidance. Since open access continues to be rather complex, to say the least, we also added a glossary to the webpages. We’ll be making more improvements soon, but hope that you’ve found these ones useful so far.

I’d like to say a thank you to my magnificent colleagues, who’ve processed such huge numbers of papers and kept on top of the ever-growing numbers of enquiries about open access: hard to count, but probably up to a hundred questions every day, many of them very complicated. Thanks also to everyone in the UCL community who works with us to make open access happen. Look out for new transformative agreements coming soon, and very best wishes for a good 2021.

Wellcome Trust OA policy and DORA webinar – summary and links

Kirsty17 December 2020

On Wednesday 16th December the UCL Office for Open Science and Scholarship hosted a webinar focussing on the forthcoming Wellcome Trust Open Access policy, with particular reference to DORA, as well as how we are making progress towards fully being able to meet its terms.

Our first speaker was David Carr from the Wellcome trust who talked about the development of the Open Access focussed teams inside Wellcome Trust before outlining the new policy in full and describing in detail the elements which are distinct from the previous policy as shown in the image below.

David then moved on to describing the background to Wellcome’s commitment to responsible research evaluation, and the decision to include DORA in the new policy. He also described the feedback and redrafting process that it went through thanks to the feedback from the community.

Following on from David, we had a talk from Dr Ralitsa Madsen, who shared her experiences as a junior researcher around the issue of research evaluation and especially its relationship with transparency and Open Science.  She has worked with Chris Chambers of the UKRN to develop a policy template for funders to try and encourage more adoption, but also make it easier for them to adopt, by providing a ready-made solution!

We then turned to the Library Services contingent of the webinar speakers, starting out with Dr Paul Ayris, Pro-Vice-Provost for Library Services and the Office for Open Science and Scholarship. Paul walked us through the development of the UCL responsible metrics policy and the ways that it is being implemented in HR, recruitment and promotions processes.

Catherine Sharp, Head of Open Access Services followed up with a whistle-stop tour of the changes that have been made to the Open Access processes in order to support academic staff to meet the terms of the new policy, including numerous transformative arrangements with different publishers.

At the end of the webinar we had one remaining question which we put to David after the session:

What do ‘appropriate sanctions’ look like?

David’s response: There’s actually no change on this – the sanctions are actually already in place, and will remain as are when the new policy comes into effect in January.

Essentially we monitor compliance at end-of-grant reporting stage and when researchers apply for new funding.  If a researcher has non-compliant papers, then we will not activate new grants or funding renewals until any non-compliant Wellcome papers have been made open access.  Where papers reported in an end of grant report are not compliant, we will also not accept any new grant applications from that researcher until this has been resolved.  In extreme cases, we also have the option to suspend funding to a whole organisation.  See: https://wellcome.org/grant-funding/guidance/open-access-guidance/complying-with-our-open-access-policy

The recording is available below and also on MediaCentral.

UUK/Jisc High Level Negotiation Strategy Group

Catherine Sharp13 July 2020

There are now more than 5,000 journals in UCL’s transformative agreements, where UCL researchers can now publish open access without additional costs. They cover all disciplines; departments have been using our subject-specific list to identify journals that are relevant to them.

We’re getting lots of questions about which publishers might introduce an agreement next. Today, Paul Ayris (Pro-Vice-Provost (UCL Library Services) writes about the UUK/Jisc High Level Negotiation Strategy Group that oversees negotiation of these agreements, and explains what the Group is hoping to achieve with current negotiations.


UCL Library Services makes tens of thousands of electronic journals, books and databases available to all UCL staff and students. Have you ever wondered how these materials are acquired and how the discussions with the publishers are conducted?

For e-journals, these discussions take place at a national level and are conducted by the Jisc on behalf of UK Higher Education. UK HE spends a lot of money each year with commercial publishers to acquire e-journals – over £100 million. It’s big business and the consortium of universities that Jisc can call together for a deal with an individual publisher can be both large and impressive. In summer 2019, I stood down after many years as chair of the Jisc Content Strategy Group, which oversaw Big Deal purchases for UK HE. I did this because both Jisc and I wanted to move oversight of these deals to a body chaired at Vice-Chancellor level and aligned with Universities UK (UUK). In this way the new UUK/Jisc High Level Negotiation Strategy Group was born.

The membership is diverse. There are University Librarians like me on the Group, and I am happy to say that my colleague Chris Banks (Assistant Provost, Space and Director of Library Services at Imperial) is also a member. There are representatives from other University Libraries with less spending power than UCL and Imperial. SCONUL and RLUK (Research Libraries UK) are also members, as are senior academic figures representing UUK members. The Group is chaired by Professor Stephen Decent, Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Manchester Metropolitan University.

What are our core aims? These are:

  • Develop and advance strategy for cost-effective publication, acquisition and delivery of research output which takes account of the dynamic nature of the information marketplace and the changing needs of the community
  • Develop and advance strategy for the utilization of negotiations with publishers and societies to facilitate a quick, cost effective and financially sustainable transition to OA
  • Develop and advance strategy for the use of a broad range of innovative approaches in licensing and negotiation to facilitate the acquisition, dissemination and management of research outputs
  • Provide leadership for national negotiations
  • Act as a conduit between the negotiators and the sector (university leaders, researchers, administration and funders) for the agreement, communication, oversight and reporting on objectives, strategy, tactics and progress of negotiations
  • Facilitate debate and action to help implement long term solutions to challenges in publication and acquisition of research output
  • Oversee the conduct of the negotiations on behalf of the UK academic community
  • Provide a focal point for the provision of guidance on the range of institutional responses to a dynamic research, policy and research environment
  • Evaluate options in the event that negotiations do not proceed as planned and further action from the sector may be required to achieve an acceptable agreement
  • Seek transparency in deals with publishers especially in relation to cost and how institutional money is being spent

It’s an ambitious and very demanding role. We have already written to all major publishers, asking for substantial reductions in subscription costs as a result of the pressure on university finances caused by covid-19. We have also set ourselves the target of turning all current subscription deals into Open Access Read and Publish deals. This will allow the UK to be compliant with a growing number of research funder policies, such as the forthcoming UKRI OA policy, the OA policy of the Wellcome Trust and Plan S from Science Europe.

The stakes are high. UCL is committed to Open Science/Scholarship principles as key drivers in the global research and education landscape. The role of the High Level Strategy Group is to deliver that change in the publishing arena, achieving the goal of 100% Open Access as speedily as possible.

Paul Ayris
Pro-Vice-Provost (UCL Library Services)

Finding journals in UCL’s transformative agreements

Catherine Sharp25 June 2020

“Planet Transformers” by pavlinajane is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Over the last few weeks we’ve been writing about UCL’s transformative agreements and introducing more researchers to them. These agreements give UCL corresponding authors a way to publish open access in subscription journals. They meet the requirements of the new Wellcome open access policy, which applies to research articles submitted from 1 January 2021, and we anticipate that they’ll also satisfy the new UK Research Councils/UKRI open access policy that’s due to be announced next year.

We’ve put together a list of journals in our transformative agreements (more than 5,000!) by subject. They include Modern Law Review, British Educational Research Journal, Annals of Neurology, Geo: Geography and Environment, and Human Brain Mapping (published by Wiley); Gender & Society (Sage); Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, Climatic Change, and European Journal of Nutrition (Springer); Physics in Medicine and Biology (Institute of Physics); Journal of Materials Chemistry A, B and C (Royal Society of Chemistry); Art & Perception, and Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Religions (Brill).

If you aren’t very familiar with these agreements, read on to find out more about why they’ve developed and how they work. We’ve also explained a bit of confusing open access terminology – ‘hybrid’ journals – into the bargain.

If you know about transformative agreements already, feel free to go straight to the list: it’s below, and on our transformative agreements webpage. For more information about what’s in the list, scroll down to the “New tool – journals by subject” section below. Make sure that you check the relevant publisher terms and conditions on the transformative agreements webpage before submitting to one of these journals.

Journals in UCL’s open access transformative agreements by subject

Why transformative agreements?

Funders increasingly want to ensure immediate open access to journal articles. Delayed open access after the publisher’s embargo period (usually between 6 and 24 months) isn’t enough; and paying for open access in subscription journals, without the journal committing to becoming fully open access, isn’t going to be acceptable either.

We anticipate researchers that researchers will have to publish in:

  1. fully open access journals (listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals) – e.g. the PLOS and BioMed Central journals, Nature Communications and Scientific Reports (Gold open access);
  2. subscription journals that allow the accepted manuscript to be made open access in a repository (Green open access), with the CC BY licence, on publication (e.g. Royal Society and Emerald journals); or
  3. subscription journals that are part of transformative agreements (or that have “transformative status”) – also Gold open access – for as long as this third option is permitted.

To offer a publishing option that meets these requirements, a journal can become fully open access (option 1), remove its embargo on Green open access and allow CC BY (option 2), or offer a transformative agreement (option 3).

Subscription and hybrid journals

Most journals require a subscription – either institutional or personal – for access. Journals that are accessible through UCL’s subscriptions appear in the E-journals link on our E-resources webpages. Some subscription journals (e.g. the Nature journals, and Science) have a Green open access option, but don’t offer Gold (paid) open access. If you upload the accepted manuscript of a Nature journal to UCL’s Research Publications Service, we’ll make it open access in UCL’s open access repository, UCL Discovery, at the end of the embargo period: six months, for those journals. You can use Sherpa Romeo to check journals’ embargo periods.

Many subscription journals offer an open access option to make specific papers openly available. They’re known as hybrid journals. These journals are in a position to offer transformative agreements that meet the requirements of option 3 above, provided they are serious about transitioning to becoming fully open access. Most journals are hybrid journals.

We’ve already mentioned some high-profile journals that are in our transformative agreements. Most are hybrid journals: Modern Law Review, British Educational Research Journal and Annals of Neurology (published by Wiley); Gender & Society (Sage); Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, Climatic Change and European Journal of Nutrition (Springer); Physics in Medicine and Biology (Institute of Physics); Journal of Materials Chemistry A, B and C (Royal Society of Chemistry); Art & Perception, and Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Religions (Brill). There are also some fully open access journals in our Wiley agreement: examples are Geo: Geography and Environment, and Human Brain Mapping.

Negotiating transformative agreements

These new agreements replace UCL’s subscription agreements with publishers. An additional sum is paid for the (open access) publishing element, funded by UCL’s UKRI, Wellcome and institutional open access budgets. Over the course of the agreement (sometimes several years), an increasing proportion of the cost is directed towards publishing instead of access (subscriptions).

Jisc Collections negotiates transformative agreements on behalf of all UK institutions. These agreements are transitional: Plan S (to which UKRI and the Wellcome are signatories) and the new Wellcome policy allow costs of transformative agreements to be funded until the end of 2024. Like other universities, we’re monitoring the overall costs of these agreements, takeup, and researchers’ views of them, very closely.

We currently have agreements with Brill, Electrochemical Society, European Respiratory Journal, IMechE, Institute of Physics, IWA Publishing, Microbiology Society, Portland Press (Biochemical Society), Rockefeller University Press, Royal Society of Chemistry, Royal Society of Medicine, Sage, Springer, Thieme and Wiley. Jisc is actively negotiating with other publishers, including Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and many others. Agreements are for calendar years. What’s really critical is that agreements should cover 100% of outputs by UCL corresponding authors, and be affordable.

New tool – journals by subject

We’ve had lots of positive reaction to these transformative agreements, as well as questions about journals that aren’t currently covered (see the section above). One of the things we’ve been asked to do is to provide information about which subjects each journal covers.

We’ve used Scopus and Web of Science to put together a list of journals in the current agreements with different subject granularity. The list below shows broad Scopus categories, narrower Web of Science and Scopus ones, and lastly very specific Scopus categories. In the same file, we’ve included a separate list of the detailed Scopus categories, which might help with interpreting the main list.

Journals in UCL’s open access transformative agreements by subject

We know that only researchers can decide where best to submit their work; but we hope that by providing this information we can help more researchers to publish open access. Make sure that you check the relevant publisher terms and conditions on our transformative agreements page before submitting to these journals.

More information

If you’d like to receive updates on open access and transformative agreements, please use the Subscribe by Email option to sign up for an alert when we publish a new post. You’ll find it to the right of this post, or at the bottom if you’re reading this on a mobile device. Alternatively, or as well, follow us on Twitter!

If you’d like to arrange a department briefing on anything covered in this post, or on open access more generally, contact catherine.sharp@ucl.ac.uk

Transforming publishing with new agreements?

Catherine Sharp25 May 2020

When Plan S was announced 18 months ago, requiring all publications from participating funders to be made open access from 2021, a new term – transformative agreement – entered the open access lexicon. The idea is to transform or transition journal publishing away from subscriptions towards full open access.

The Wellcome open access policy from 2021, and Plan S, allow authors to publish in three different types of journal. After their consultation on a new policy finishes, the UK Research Councils (UKRI) might well say something similar. Here are the three routes:

  1. Fully open access journals. All papers in these journals are published open access, often for a fee. Examples are the PLOS and BMC journals, Nature Communications, Scientific Reports, SageOpen, Wellcome Open Research, and UCL’s own UCL Open: Environment and UCL Child Health Open Research.
  2. Journals that aren’t open access, but that allow authors to make their manuscripts open access in a repository like UCL Discovery, on publication, under the CC BY licence. Royal Society journals are an example.
  3. Journals that are part of transformative agreements, or are themselves transformative journals, until 2024.

Most publishers still don’t allow immediate open access in a repository, and most that do don’t allow CC BY. Transformative agreements are increasing, though.

Jisc, which negotiates our subscription agreements, has some complex criteria for transformative agreements. Publishers must offer 100% UK open access publishing that’s affordable, sustainable and transparent. Large commercial publishers, as well as society publishers like Microbiology Society and Electrochemical Society, all have agreements.

What does this mean for me?

UCL is trialling lots of transformative agreements this year. These include our long-standing SpringerCompact, RSC and IOP agreements, smaller offers from Brill, Thieme, European Respiratory Journal and the societies we’ve already mentioned, and larger agreements with Wiley and Sage.

These agreements are restricted to UCL corresponding authors. Make sure you give your UCL e-mail address and affiliation when you submit to a journal; you should be recognised as eligible if we have a transformative agreement. See our step-by-step guide to open access funding for more information both about these agreements and about other open access funding arrangements.

Contact us if you’d like to arrange a virtual department visit from us to discuss these agreements.

UCL’s APC spend: an analysis

Catherine Sharp22 November 2017

All institutions with block grant funding for open access from the UK Research Councils (RCUK) and the COAF medical charities submit annual reports on their APC spend to those funders. However, since reporting periods vary, and it can be difficult to compare spend across funders, at UCL we find it useful to collate our spend from our RCUK and COAF funds, as well as from our small institutional open access fund, and to draw out comparative data, including our average APC payment by fund, and most (and least) expensive publishers. What follows is an analysis of our APC spend from our three open access budgets for August 2016-July 2017.

During this period, a total of £3.3 million was paid from UCL’s RCUK, COAF and institutional open access funds, for 1,946 APCs. 54% came from RCUK funds, 26% from COAF funds and 20% (including 100 unfunded SpringerCompact papers) from UCL funds. The average (mean) APC, across all budgets, was £1,704 (including VAT). The average APC paid from UCL’s institutional fund was much lower, at £1,363, because the UCL fund is reserved almost exclusively for APCs in fully open access journals. The average APC paid from UCL’s RCUK funds was £1,730; the average from UCL’s COAF funds was £2,167.

Although 99 publishers received APC payments from UCL, more than 70% of the APCs paid were to 10 large publishers. The average APC paid to these “top ten” publishers varies from £594 for Taylor and Francis papers to £2,184 for Elsevier APCs. 63% of payments were made under a prepayment arrangement, the rest by invoice.

The chart below (click to expand) shows all publishers who received more than 10 APC payments from UCL’s funds in 2016-17.

APC graph

This comparison reflects the disparity between APC costs in hybrid and fully open access journals, the relatively high cost of APCs paid to some smaller publishers (Wolters Kluwer, costing £2,903 per APC on average, and Society for Neuroscience at £2,763), and also the large total sums paid to hybrid publishers in addition to subscription charges. When we repeat this analysis next year, and in future, we hope that we’ll see improvements resulting from genuine subscription/APC offsetting deals, of the sort that Springer and Institute of Physics Publishing have pioneered.