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Open Access at UCL in numbers

Patrycja8 October 2020

This is the first in a new series of regular posts in which we plan to celebrate the huge numbers of research outputs that UCL academics are making open access, and the impact of this worldwide.

UCL Discovery in numbers

Despite this year’s unprecedented demands on academics, UCL authors have been depositing their papers at the same impressive rate as before COVID. Our team has continued to process 1,600 papers each month, on average, making them openly available in UCL Discovery, our institutional repository. As of October, the repository holds over 105,000 outputs that are currently openly available to download – this is a significant increase from over 83,000 that were available at the same time last year, and a testament to the success of the REF open access policy.

Research outputs in UCL Discovery have just reached over 22 million lifetime downloads, of which over 3 million are downloads of open access books published by UCL Press. Our global readership spans over 250 countries; the top five countries downloading from the repository are the US, UK, India, Canada and Germany.

This year alone, the repository had over 3,300,000 downloads. The most popular item so far in 2020, with over 11,000 downloads, is a journal article originally published in Nature, Mastering the game of Go without human knowledge. Other popular items include a recent publication from UCL Press, The Responsibility of Intellectuals: Reflections by Noam Chomsky and others after 50 years, with over 8,000 downloads (interestingly, this book is particularly popular in Canada). How the World Changed Social Media is also going strong this year, and kept its position in the top 10 most downloaded items (more than 88,000 lifetime downloads). Unsurprisingly, an article on COVID-19, The continuing 2019-nCoV epidemic threat of novel coronaviruses to global health, is also one of the top downloaded items, with over 8,000 downloads so far.

RPS in numbers

We’ve written before about the new functionality that we introduced to UCL’s Research Publications Service this summer. It allows you to send publications recorded in RPS to your ORCID record automatically. 75% of research staff have added their ORCID record to RPS to enable autoclaiming. We’re very excited that 20% of those have also now given RPS permission to send publications to their ORCID record, so they don’t have to add them manually. It’s great that so many academics are linking and sharing information about research outputs in this way, and we hope that it soon becomes a time-saver for many more. You can find out more about the tool, and how easy it is to set it up, on our ORCID guide.

Doctoral theses in UCL Discovery

Of all the items that are available in UCL Discovery, over 18,000 are doctoral thesis. At UCL, the requirement to submit an electronic copy of your thesis as a condition of award has been in place since 2009. In addition to that, we have retrospectively digitised theses from earlier years, as a part of a collaborative project with ProQuest. Currently, over 8,000 retrospectively digitised thesis are available in the repository. The oldest digitised thesis dates as far back as 1933.

UCL theses are one of the most downloaded types of item in the repository, with over 7 million lifetime downloads. The most popular doctoral thesis, with over 3,600 downloads over the last twelve months, is a 1992 thesis, Fatigue and fracture mechanics analysis of threaded connections, available here.

Gold open access in numbers

So far, we’ve focused on the Green route to open access, where outputs are made available, usually as final accepted manuscripts, after the publisher’s embargo period. Plan S funders, of course, will soon require immediate open access, and Plan S’s Rights Retention Strategy will allow authors to make papers published in subscription journals open access without an embargo (option 2 in Plan S).

Many UCL academics publish via the Gold route to open access, either in fully open access journals (option 1 in Plan S), or under transformative agreements (option 3 in Plan S). This year to date UCL’s Open Access Team has arranged immediate open access for over 1,800 UCL papers.

There are more than 5,000 journals covered in UCL’s transformative agreements, including small and society publishers like Electrochemical Society, European Respiratory Journal, IWA Publishing, Microbiology Society, Portland Press Biochemical Society journals, Rockefeller University Press, Royal Society of Chemistry. This allows authors publishing in these journals to comply with their funders’ requirements and Plan S. Negotiations with other publishers are happening for 2021.

Until the end of this year, papers funded by the Wellcome Trust that are submitted to  subscription journals can still use UCL’s Wellcome funds. Papers submitted from 1 January 2021 will need to follow the requirements of the new Wellcome open access policy [link], which means that funds will only be available for open access in fully open access journals and subscription journals that are part of UCL’s transformative agreements. Other papers will need to follow the Wellcome’s second route to open access, depositing their manuscript in Europe PubMed Central, to be made open access immediately, under the Rights Retention Strategy. We expect the current arrangements for papers funded by one of the UK Research Councils to continue until a new UKRI open access policy is introduced next year.

During OA Week we have a Q&A session on open access. This event, for UCL researchers, is an opportunity to ask questions about the new open access funding arrangements, transformative agreements, Plan S, depositing your research in UCL Discovery, and more. Sign up via Eventbrite to receive a link to join the session.

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.