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:
- Read published research papers in an electronic format.
- 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:
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
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.)