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Open access in the UK

Finch Report

The key document is, of course, the Finch Report (18 June 2012), which published the recommendations of the Working Group on Expanding Access to Published Research Findings, chaired by Dame Janet Finch. The report is available in full and in executive summary from the Research Information Network website. The official government response to the Report is available from the same web page.

RCUK Open Access Policy

On 16 July 2012, Research Councils UK (RCUK) announced its new open access policy, informed by the Finch Report, and there has been much discussion since then of the implications for researchers in the arts, humanities and social sciences, focusing in particular on the preference for Gold Open Access and licensing.

On 6 March 2013, RCUK published revised policy guidelines, this time fully integrated with the policy statement. The document was open to consultation for two weeks.

The Royal Historical Society’s response to this consultation was published on 6 March 2013.

There has now been a further revision of the RCUK guidelines, published on 8 April 2013: ‘The changes aim to further clarify the guidance and draw on comments received from across the research community, learned societies and publishers following a call for input in March’. RCUK has also issued Frequently Asked Questions, to help researchers understand what will be required of them under the new policy. They key changes are helpfully summarised in a THE article, ‘RCUK changes open-access guidance yet again‘. Of particular note are the clarification that the policy applies not just to standard research articles, but also to review articles (unless they have been commissioned by the publisher); and that reference to a ‘proper market’ for APCs has been removed.

House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology (Open Access Inquiry)

The publication of the revised RCUK guidelines mentioned above was prompted in part by the report of the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology, published on 22 February 2013. The Committee received seventy-four submissions, from individuals and organisations, in response to its call for evidence, including one from the Royal Historical Society. It ‘criticised Research Councils UK (RCUK) for failures in its communication of its open access policy. The report says the previous lack of clarity about RCUK’s policy and guidance was “unacceptable”‘.

Business, Innovation and Skills Committee inquiry into Open Access

second inquiry, conducted by the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee is now underway, and will report later in the year. The Royal Historical Society again made a submission in response to the call for evidence.

Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE)

On 16 July 2012, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) announced plans to make publicly funded research more freely available. Subsequently, on 25 February 2013, it launched an initial consultation on the development of proposals around open access and submissions to the Research Excellence Framework (REF) post-2014 (closing date 25 March 2013).

The Royal Historical Society’s response to this initial consultation was published in March 2013.

The main phase of HEFCE’s consultation on the post-2014 REF open access proposals was published on 24 July 2012. It is available at,82784,en.html, and the closing date for responses is midday on 30 October 2013.

British Academy

The British Academy has taken an active role in debates about open access as it relates to the humanities and social sciences, and has responded both to the Finch Report recommendations and to the announcement of a consultation by HEFCE.

On 21 March 2013, the Academy published a response to RCUK’s revised policy and guidelines (published for consultation on 6 March).