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Open access and the geographical community

The move towards ‘open access’ (OA) publication of research will have far reaching effects in the UK and elsewhere. The situation is changing rapidly and much remains uncertain.

The Society will try to keep the geographical community informed about the emerging context and support them in the transition process. As publishers, we will also do all we can to ensure our own publications are compliant, especially with UK OA mandates, in a way that supports all the community across career stages, institutional affiliations and sub-disciplinary areas. The Society's journals are fully compliant with RCUK mandates (see below) and the Society is currently developing plans for a new, fully open access journal.

The Society is involved in policy discussions about the implementation of OA: Society Director, Dr Rita Gardner, was a member of the Finch Group and is on the JISC OA Implementation Group. We have consulted widely on responses to consultations, notably from HEFCE (the Higher Education Funding Council for England) and RCUK (Research Councils UK). The Society's responses are available on the consultation responses page

This page includes a brief summary of the current situation, key documents and recent announcements, which we will keep updated. Alternatively, download a summary (PDF) produced for an OA panel at the Society's Annual International Conference.

Latest news

HEFCE, alongside the other three UK funding bodies, published its new ‘Policy for open access in the post-2014 Research Excellence Framework’ in March 2014. This policy states that, in order to be eligible for the post 2014 REF, journal articles and conference proceedings must be available in an open-access form.

The new policy applies to research publications accepted for publication after 1 April 2016. However, there are a number of exemptions (e.g. in cases where deposit was not possible) and the policy does enable repositories to respect embargoes.

HEFCE expect that institutions will be able to achieve near-total compliance. Nevertheless, the post-2014 REF will include a mechanism that will allow exceptional cases to be considered. 

The Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee held an Inquiry into Open Access on 16 April 2013, on which it reported in September 2013.

The RCUK policy on open access (PDF) came into force on 1 April 2013 and is accompanied by a list of FAQs (PDF) to support researchers in understanding the requirements on them. RCUK will allocate block funding grants to institutions to support payment of article processing charges (APCs).The Wellcome Trust expanded their policy in May 2013 to include scholarly monographs as well as journal articles, but most other policies relate only to journal articles.

Context and details

The UK Government, European Commission and major funders of higher education have expressed support for expanding access to research following the recommendations of the Finch Group set up by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). Their statements will impact on the way some research is disseminated because they include requirements that much publicly funded research is made open access (freely available to all readers) and available for text and data mining and re-use, including commercially.

The Finch Group and BIS have been followed by RCUK in indicating strong support for the payment of APCs to allow research outputs to be made Gold OA – that is, all readers can freely access the published article immediately on publication instead of them or their institution purchasing or subscribing to it, because the APC has covered the cost of publication. RCUK also state that this Gold OA must be under a CC BY licence, the most accommodating Creative Commons licence allowing others to 'distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon' research outputs, even commercially, as long as they credit the original version.

Where funds to cover APCs are not available to an author, research funded by RCUK will have to be made Green OA (preferably allowing commercial re-use), which is when versions of published papers (in this case the post peer-review accepted manuscripts) are archived in online repositories hosted by institutions or funders, for example. Publishers and other funders have different rules about which version can/must be archived in this way and when, which also vary by disciplines. Many publications have already changed their licensing policies to accommodate authors subject to these varied requirements.

Not all of this is new, as some funders, particularly in the US, have mandated this for some time and Green archiving has been requested by funders and institutions in the UK. There are a number of routes currently available for Gold OA publication, including fully OA and hybrid (part subscription, part OA) journals, and many institutions host repositories for Green OA. What is new in the UK includes the scale of the mandates; shorter embargo times in some contexts, which may threaten some journals’ sustainability; the availability of some funding to pay APCs; the burden on institutions to administrate APC block grants; additional conditions of text mining (with data mining expected to follow) and the potential for commercial re-use of research outputs.

Key statements and policies

Other funders’ statements


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