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Good news from RCUK

After much waiting and deliberation, the Executive Group of the Research Councils UK announced on June 28 that it has updated its position statement on access to research outputs. The original position statement was issued in June 2005, and was very favourable towards open access. The new statement retreats to some extent from the original position statement, but much more importantly, policies from individual Research Councils have also now been announced that will certainly increase open access.

The reaction to the policy so far seems to have been very positive – see, for example the press releases from BioMed Central and The Joint Information Systems Committee.

I was telephoned by a reporter today who expected PLoS to have a negative reaction, but I had to disappoint her – I was positive like everyone else she’d spoken to. Although those who do not support open access might feel that the new RCUK statement will decelerate the transition towards open access, the positive effects are already there to see. In June last year, all we had was a position statement – a year on, we have some real policies, all of which are pushing publishing closer to open access.

There are eight Research Councils in total and they are the major public funding agencies for research in the UK. Along with the announcement from the RCUK itself, three of the funding agencies have now announced that from October 1st this year, they will mandate the deposition of published articles arising from research that they fund, into public repositories – the Medical Research Council, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, and the Economic and Social Sciences Research Council. The Medical Research Council in particular has said that this must take place within six months of publication, and they have indicated that researchers can include publication fees for open access journals in their grant applications.

For biomedical researchers in the UK, publishing in open access journals will be that much more straightforward. The Medical Research Council joins the Wellcome Trust in the UK in encouraging open access, by providing funds to authors for publishing in open access journals. Now what we need is for more funding agencies to adopt similar policies. It is only if researchers have access to funds to cover the publication fees associated with open access journals that we will be able to move towards financially sustainable open access publishing.

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