The UK recently decided that from 2014, all research papers supported by public funds must be published in open-access journals. For instance, the Research Councils UK announced a new policy stating that:

The new policy, which will apply to all qualifying publications being submitted for publication from 1 April 2013, states that peer reviewed research papers which result from research that is wholly or partially funded by the Research Councils:

  • must be published in journals which are compliant with Research Council policy on Open Access
  • must include details of the funding that supported the research, and a statement on how the underlying research materials such as data, samples or models can be accessed.

My question is the following: what could concretely happen if someone does not respect this policy? For instance, if someone publishes both in open-access and in paywall journals, does that mean that only those in open-access count in the report to the RCUK? Or does that mean that you can get "black-listed" if you publish in paywall journals?

EDIT: Directly related question: what happen if one publishes a paper in a paywall journal and publishes at the same time the pre-print on a freely accessible archive?

  • 8
    What happens right now if you violate the terms of a grant you've received? Presumably it will be the same. Jul 20, 2012 at 13:44
  • @DavidKetcheson It's a very good point. Do current grants have term concerning the publications of the result?
    – user102
    Jul 20, 2012 at 13:59

3 Answers 3


It seems slightly annoying, but not insurmountable. From the UK Research Council's Policy on Access, I quote,

The Research Councils define Open Access to mean unrestricted, on-line access to peer reviewed and published scholarly research papers. Specifically a user must be able to do the following free of any publisher-imposed access charge:

  1. Read published research papers in an electronic format.
  2. Search for and re-use (including download) the content [N.b.: footnote specifies including but not limited to the text, data, images, and figures] of published research papers both manually and using automated tools (such as those for text and data mining) provided that any such re-use is subject to proper attribution.

Open Access therefore allows unrestricted use of manual and automated text and data mining tools, as well as unrestricted re-use of content with proper attribution – as defined by the Creative Commons CC-BY license. The Research Councils acknowledge that some publications may need to amend their copyright conditions if they are to meet this definition of Open Access.

Furthermore, about compliance by journals:

The Research Councils will continue to support a mixed approach to Open Access. The Research Councils will recognise a journal as being compliant with their policy on Open Access if:

  1. The journal provides via its own website immediate and unrestricted access to the publisher’s final version of the paper (the Version of Record), and allows immediate deposit of the Version of Record in other repositories without restriction on re-use. This may involve payment of an ‘Article Processing Charge’ (APC) to the publisher. The CC-BY license should be used in this case. OR

  2. Where a publisher does not offer option 1 above, the journal must allow deposit of Accepted Manuscripts that include all changes resulting from peer review (but not necessarily incorporating the publisher’s formatting) in other repositories, without restrictions on non-commercial re-use and within a defined period. In this option no ‘Article Processing Charge’ will be payable to the publisher. Research Councils will accept a delay of no more than six months between on-line publication and a research paper becoming Open Access, except in the case of research papers arising from research funded by the AHRC and the ESRC where the maximum embargo period is 12 months.

For individual grant recipients, the most important bit is probably the following:

RCUK have in the past provided support for APCs through both direct and indirect costs as part of grant funding. From 1st April 2013 and until further notice, RCUK will support the payment of APCs and other publication charges related to Research Council-funded research solely through block grants to UK Higher Education Institutions, approved independent research organisations and Research Council Institutes. Research grant applications will, therefore, no longer include provision for Open Access publication or other publication charges.

In all cases universities and research organisations upon receipt of funding should transfer these charges to their institutional publication fund. A university or research organisation can then access these funds to pay for APCs for any article resulting from research council funding.

and from the "guidance" document:

The Research Councils will be amending their conditions of award to reflect these new requirements and will be extending existing mechanisms which capture research grants outputs (such as the Research Outputs System) to include compliance monitoring on this policy.

To summarise: much as Daniel Shub anticipated, the policy allows for either a fully open access publication or publishing in a pay-walled journal which allows you to deposit the Accepted Manuscript in certain repositories, with an acceptable embargo delay. And enforcement of this will be much in the same way other conditions for grant dispersal are enforced. (They tell you what you can do with the money; if you don't follow the rules, they take the money back and/or not give you money ever again.)

The only thing to additionally note is the small caveat that pay-walled journals, to qualify for the second option of "open access" cannot charge article processing fees. (Which is not too unreasonable: a journal is to charge either the author or the reader but not both.)

  • +1, great answer. Just to make the picture complete as I'm a bit confused: is it OK to publish in a pay-walled journal that have an open access option, i.e., can make a particular paper open access for a fee (this is usually called an open access fee to distinguish it from the publication fee) ? Jan 26, 2015 at 12:15
  • @just-learning: I am not a lawyer, but my reading of the rules is that there's nothing in the rules that excludes the scenario you've described. Jan 28, 2015 at 13:12

My guess is that non-open access publications will not be able to be counted towards the REF (or whatever replaces the REF), used in annual progress reports, or be considered by grant reviewers when evaluating your track record. If Research Councils (RCs) catch you publishing in a non-open access journal, they likely will be able to charge the university for the costs associated with making it open access and possibly black list you from further funding.

I think these punishments will be rare, because I don't think the UK RC model is very different from the US NIH model. The US model requires open access after an embargo period. It is not clear if the UK model allows for an embargo. The US system allows for the version accepted by the journal, but not yet copy edited and typeset by the journal, to be made open access. Many journals just make the final copy available after the embargo, but not all do. It sounds like the UK system will require a creative commons licensing, which I think would allow publishers to copy edit, typeset and sell the open access version. Complying with the US regulations is relatively easy, so I doubt it will be hard to comply with the UK regulations.


Every scientific grant I know of has a clause stating that continued disbursement of funds is contingent on compliance with the the terms of the grant. So the most likely result of violating those terms is that they'll stop funding you. I think there would also be a strong effect on your professional reputation, since you signed an agreement to abide by those terms and then willingly violated them.

If you violated the terms of the grant after it expired, you would probably not get funding from that agency in the future.

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