Publicly funded research in the UK must be freely accessibleBMJ 2006; 333 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.333.7559.112-a (Published 13 July 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:112
Publicly funded research in the UK must be freely accessible
Publicly funded research must be made accessible and free of charge to the public, recommended a statement published this week by research councils in the United Kingdom.
The statement said that information derived from publicly funded research must be made available at no charge for public use as widely, rapidly, and effectively as is practical.
It also advised that published research findings must be subject to rigorous quality assurance, through effective peer review mechanisms, and that mechanisms for publication and access to research results must be efficient and cost effective. Finally, the outputs from current and future research must be preserved and remain accessible for future generations.
The recommendations were developed by the executive group of Research Councils UK, which represents the eight research councils in the country, including the Medical Research Council.
Astrid Wissenburg, who speaks on open access publishing for the group, said: "In the past the majority of academic research has been available only to those who can pay for access, either through personal or institutional subscription or through electronic document delivery."
She added: "The aim of the new recommendations is to enable free access to publicly funded research, which is paid for by tax payers. They will also allow optimal use of technological advances to speed up dissemination of research findings."
While laying down the principle that the findings of all publicly funded research should be made accessibly to the public free of charge, Research Councils UK reaffirmed its long standing commitment that academic authors should be free to choose where to publish their research, and it made no judgment on the most appropriate publishing model.
Meanwhile, the individual research councils are now separately publishing their own guidelines.
The guidance from the Medical Research Council requires that from 1 October 2006 electronic copies of any research papers accepted for publication in a peer reviewed journal that are funded wholly or partly by its funds should be deposited at the earliest opportunity (and within six months) in PubMed Central, an archive of life sciences journal literature on the internet.
Although this requirement applies to articles resulting from new grants, the council is also encouraging papers resulting from funding made before 1 October 2006 to be made available on PubMed Central.
On the question of which journals authors should publish in, the Medical Research Council said that it "strongly encourages authors to publish in journals that allow them (or their institutions) to retain ownership of the copyright."
The council’s grant conditions are being amended to reflect the new recommendations. All applicants submitting funding proposals to the council are expected to include a statement explaining their strategy for preservation and sharing of data. Where authors are charged for publishing, these fees may be included in applications for funding.
Research Councils UK is planning to assess the effect of publishing systems in which the author pays for publication and the effects of self archiving on research publishing. Three publishers—Macmillan, Blackwell, and Elsevier—have indicated that they are prepared to be involved in the project. Research Councils UK will review its recommendations in 2008 on the basis of the findings from this research.
The Royal Society, the UK’s national academy of science, recently launched a trial of a new open access journal service that makes scientific papers available on the internet free of charge immediately after they are published. The new service, called EXiS Open Choice, allows authors to pay for their paper to be made freely available on the web immediately after being accepted for publication by any Royal Society journal. Previously papers could be accessed free of charge on the society’s website 12 months after publication.
The society is testing whether the new system is a viable way to sustain the costs of peer review and other aspects of journal production. Authors who choose to pay will be charged £300 (€430; $550) for each A4 page, although a discounted rate of £225 will initially be charged to encourage use of the service.
Martin Taylor, vice president of the society, said: "There is still a lack of evidence about how open access journals can be sustained in the long run, and we hope that this trial will help the Royal Society and researchers, as both authors and readers, to investigate one of the options."
• Original research articles that are accepted and published by the BMJ are freely accessible on bmj.com. They are also deposited in PubMed Central as soon as they are published. This fulfils the requirements of the National Institutes of Health, Research Councils UK, and the Wellcome Trust.
The Research Councils UK updated position statement on access to research outputs is available at www.rcuk.ac.uk. The Medical Research Council’s guidance on open and unrestricted access to published research is available at www.mrc.ac.uk.
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