UKRI wants monographs to be open access by 2024

Proposals are likely to raise concerns over the future of longer-form academic publishing

February 13, 2020
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Academic monographs will need to be made freely available within 12 months of publication if authors are supported by public research funds, according to new open access proposals from the UK’s main research body.

Under new draft proposals published on 13 February, UK Research and Innovation will require all scholarly monographs, book chapters and edited collections that acknowledge its funding to be made open access from January 2024, unless a contract has been signed before this date that prevents adherence to the policy.

Open access publication on an online platform or in a free-to-view institutional repository will be mandatory “within a maximum of 12 months of publication, with a preference for immediate [open access]”, according to the guidelines, which have been published as part of a consultation on the plans.

The move is likely to raise concerns about the future of academic monographs, of which some 8,000 were submitted to the 2014 research excellence framework. With some publishers that offer open-access monographs charging authors upwards of £10,000, questions are likely to be raised over whether institutional budgets will stretch to cover the costs of this type of longer-form publication.

Learned societies and some commercial publishing groups might also be concerned by the prospect of a one-year open access embargo, with a Universities UK report published in October suggesting that a green model with a two- or three-year delay on open access publication would be more commercially feasible.

However, UKRI says it is still considering “definitions of in-scope monographs, edited collections and book chapters”, and “potential exceptions, including where significant reuse of third-party materials is required”.

In addition, UKRI has also set out its proposed open access policy for peer-reviewed articles supported either by direct funding from the £7 billion-a-year body or the eight research councils that it funds.

Under the proposed policy, articles accepted for publication on or after 1 January 2022 should be made “freely and immediately available online through a journal, open access publishing platform or an institutional or subject repository”.

That requirement is broadly in line with the Plan S principles agreed by the European Union and 17 European national research agencies, including UKRI, which oblige researchers funded by participating agencies to publish only in open-access titles from January 2021.

Under Plan S, academics will also be able to publish in journals that are not fully open access during a three-year transition period if their publishers have signed what are called “transformative agreements” committing to switch fully to open access.

Speaking to Times Higher Education, Sir Duncan Wingham, UKRI’s executive champion for open access, acknowledged that there were “particular problems” about the inclusion of monographs in open access rules.

“We recognise very clearly that the state of the open access [monograph] publishing market is nowhere near the same level of maturity as the research journal publication market,” said Sir Duncan, who is chief executive of the Natural Environment Research Council.

The longer 2024 time frame for implementation reflected the desire to “listen to as wide a set of views as possible” on this issue, Sir Duncan said, adding that there are “areas [of the open access consultation] where we are less firm” in proposals than others.

That said, Sir Duncan continued, there is “no reason why any discipline should be immune from open access simply because of the way it publishes”, in a reference to the arts and humanities, where monographs are more common.

The consultation, which has been launched as part of UKRI’s ongoing open access review, will close on 17 April. UKRI will use responses to inform its final policy, which it intends to announce in 2020.

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