What’s new in Open Access?
2020 has been a bumper year in open access. There have been policy developments, new opportunities for Gold open access and more open access outputs than ever – and there’s even more to come in 2021. This week we’ve launched completely updated funding and REF sections of our website to support authors with all these changes, and there will be more new guidance soon. For now, though, we’d like to share a roundup of what’s been going on in open access recently, and to make a special request to SLMS researchers (scroll to the bottom) for advice on a new transformative agreement for PLOS journals.
Policies: Wellcome and Rights Retention
We’ve been talking about Plan S for a couple of years now, since it was announced in September 2018. Now, though, we’re preparing for the first Plan S policy to come into effect. Wellcome Trust-funded research papers submitted from New Year’s Day 2021 need to be made open access as soon as they’re published.
If you have Wellcome funding, this won’t be news to you. Read on, though, for something that is completely new: Rights Retention, allowing you to publish in any journal and make your papers open access straight away.
As a reminder, from 2021 Wellcome authors can publish in:
- fully open access journals or platforms (such as Wellcome Open Research).
- subscription journals that allow them to make their final accepted manuscript open access in Europe PubMed Central at the time of publication.
- subscription journals that are included in UCL’s transformative agreements – more on these below.
Wellcome will provide a Journal Checker Tool (coming shortly) to help authors work out where and how to publish. We’ll support Wellcome researchers with our new Wellcome webpages, payments for journals in categories 1 and 3 above, and advice on individual papers and journals. The big change, though, is…
This might not sound exciting, but it could be a hugely important shift that’ll enable researchers to keep control of their work, and make it open access when it’s published. The Wellcome is the first funder to adopt it. Here’s how it works.
- A Plan S funder like Wellcome changes its grant conditions to include a new provision that grantholders automatically grant a CC BY public copyright licence to their accepted manuscripts.
- The funder notifies key publishers (Wellcome has contacted 150 publishers) asking them to allow all authors to make their manuscripts available on publication with a CC BY licence. Even if a publisher doesn’t do that, the letter gives them notice of the funder’s open access requirements. This means that the CC BY licence on the accepted manuscript takes legal precedence over any later licence to publish or copyright transfer agreement that an author signs.
- The funder requires authors to include a statement in all submissions that notifies the publisher about the funding. Here’s the statement that Wellcome authors must now use:
This allows Wellcome authors to publish in any journal, even if it’s not a fully open access journal and there’s no transformative agreement. There’s more information about this on the Wellcome’s webpages, and on Plan S’s Rights Retention page.
Other open access and open data policies
Other funders’ open access policies are likely to change in the near future. We’re expecting a new UKRI open access policy next year, and a new REF policy after that. Cancer Research UK has said that it’ll require immediate open access from January 2022. Plan S members, including the EC as part of Horizon Europe, are implementing Rights Retention. So stay up to date with your funder’s requirements – there’s a tool called Sherpa Juliet that helps with this – and check our webpages for all the latest information.
Both funding agencies and publishers also have open data policies setting out expectations, and in many cases requirements, for researchers. It’s a good idea to be aware of these when submitting a paper, or a grant proposal. These policies have the general theme of ensuring that when research is published all of the raw data which underpins the main results and conclusions is made available to as great an extent as possible. Funding agencies and publishers want to ensure that data is open in order to maintain high standards of reproducibility and transparency. Open data allows published results to be confirmed and tested by others, a much more stringent check of research quality than can realistically be offered by the peer review process. For a publisher this can also help to uphold their reputation and avoid scandals or high-profile retractions. Funding agencies also have an interest in ensuring maximum return on their investment, and encourage data sharing partly so that the output of the research they funded can be re-used as widely as possible by other researchers and beyond academia.
When you publish with a particular journal or submit a funding application to a particular agency always check their specific policies carefully to avoid any problems or delays. Information on funding agency policies is available on our webpages.
We’ve written about them before, but we make no apology for repeating ourselves. These new agreements are designed to help with the transition to full open access that funders want. UCL’s agreements currently cover just over 5,000 journals; they enable all, or most, research papers in those journals with a UCL corresponding author to be made open access on publication.
In these agreements, upfront payments fund publishing as well as access to content, helping universities and publishers move away from the old subscription model. The rub is that most agreements still cost more than subscriptions did, but funders are supporting them for a transitional period. We’re currently assessing new agreements for 2021. Can we afford these agreements long-term? Will they lead to journals becoming fully open access? We’ll see.
SLMS researchers: can you help us to help you?
By and large, researchers like the opportunities for open access publishing that transformative agreements provide. However, the agreements tend to favour traditional subscription publishers. The latest development, though, is a new model that might redress the balance a bit: PLOS’s Community Action Model for publishing in PLOS Medicine and PLOS Biology. This is a collective, potentially more sustainable way of funding two highly-selective open access journals without individual open access payments (APCs). We need to decide whether to be part of it, and we need your help. If you publish in biomedicine or medicine, please tell us: if we support this new model, and guarantee funding to publish in PLOS Medicine and PLOS Biology, would you be more likely to submit there? Get in touch with us to tell us your view, or to find out more.