Knowledge Matters blog

Behind the scenes at the British Library

07 May 2020

The British Library’s Response to the UKRI Open Access Review Consultation

The British Library holds Independent Research Organisation status with UK Research & Innovation. This has enabled us to develop an AHRC-funded Collaborative Doctoral Partnerships Programme and to work with various partners to attract joint funding for major research projects. In addition to our UKRI-funded projects, the British Library seeks to support research across all disciplines.

The British Library’s open access policy recognises the wide range of social, economic and cultural impacts that result from open access to the research conducted in the UK. This echoes our mission to make our intellectual heritage accessible to everyone, for research, inspiration and enjoyment.

We support the aim of UKRI’s proposed open access policy to ensure that the published outputs of publicly funded research are made widely and freely accessible to all from 2022, with no delay and with liberal allowances for reuse. The importance of enabling access to research outputs is evident in publishers’ responses to times of crisis or public emergency, with many seeking to enable at least temporary access to relevant research articles. We hope to see a more definite move to immediate open access as a result of the proposed policy and the policies being implemented concurrently by other cOAlition S funders.

Although we support the overarching principles of UKRI’s proposed policy, there are a few areas which we would argue require clarification, and a number of areas which require redress or added emphasis. A summary of our response is below. Read our detailed response here.

  • Open access options which are free for all authors should be emphasised, including green open access and non-APC models. It is pleasing to see the vital role of repositories highlighted throughout the policy
  • ‘Transformative’ subscription deals should have a defined end point. We note that while they may be a useful transitional tool for some institutions, transformative deals may disadvantage many researchers within and outside the UK
  • Including monographs within the open access policy is a positive step and UKRI should actively seek to support non-BPC models, with the COPIM project likely to indicate potential opportunities
  • It would be useful to introduce stricter definitions of what constitutes an out-of-scope monograph, such as ‘trade books’. We assert that the potential for a wider sales market should not be a reason to exempt a publication from the open access policy
  • UKRI should encourage the minimal use of exceptions, including the allowance for more restrictive Creative Commons licenses. We suggest the CC BY license should be the default license for monographs. This aspect of the policy may be usefully supported by extending copyright training programmes in libraries
  • The opening up of research during times of public emergency, most recently with the COVID-19 pandemic, has underlined the importance of immediate open access. However, the proposed policy focuses on preprints in the context of emergencies, which perhaps inadvertently suggests researchers should not routinely post preprints and other research outputs like data
  • The extensive list of technical requirements for publishers and repositories is useful to develop best practice that ensures efficient discovery of open content and the interoperability of metadata. Some organisations may require support to meet the more resource intensive requirements, such as providing open citation data
  • Another aspect that requires further attention across repositories and publishers is Digital Accessibility, so that everyone can access and make use of research outputs. Further guidance and support in this area would be welcome
  • UKRI could usefully invest in the infrastructure that supports open practice, particularly projects focused on the humanities and which address a gap in current provision
  • UKRI may consider implementing eligibility criteria to direct funding to initiatives which operate transparently, are committed to FAIR principles, and actively participate in the open source community
  • We would like to see a stronger stance on the value of open data and other areas of open research. We assert that data, code, software and other underlying research outputs should be at least properly cited using a persistent identifier
  • To further the shift towards 100% open access, continued collaborative and international effort is required.

The British Library reiterates its support for the aims of Plan S, which the proposed UKRI policy draws upon. We recognise the hard work that researchers, librarians, publishers, the open source community and others have made to date, and we do not underestimate the continued effort required to reach the goal of 100% open access. In particular, we note that a more global shift in policy and the behaviour of researchers is needed to effect change, given that UK research amounts to 7% of the global total.

Dominic Walker

Scholarly Communications Lead