This year’s Open Access Week follows the recent announcement of the new UKRI open access policy. This policy has been eagerly anticipated as it has experienced its fair share of delays, in part due to recent political and public health events, and UKRI is one of the founding research funders of Plan S. Plan S is an initiative to achieve full and immediate open access for publicly funded research. The coalition of funders that proposed Plan S, cOAlition S, do not view hybrid open access (i.e. publications with paid for open access in a primarily subscription journal) as a viable or sustainable transitional route to open access. Therefore, there are aspects of this new policy, which is to be implemented from April 2022, which are unique compared to the former RCUK policy that preceded it.


UKRI will allow authors to publish in hybrid journals for a transitional period, so long as they do not pay an individual invoice for the publication and full and immediate open access is achieved. The two routes available to authors for achieving this are:

1) by publishing the article with a CC BY license (or CC BY ND by exception) on the publisher’s website using a ‘transitional’/‘transformative’ agreement (TA) held between the publisher and the institution in support of no-additional-cost open access publishing; or

2) depositing a copy of the accepted manuscript (AM) in the institutional repository with a CC BY license to be made available immediately upon publication of the version of record (VoR) on the publisher’s website. After the transitional period, authors may continue to publish in subscription journals via route 2.

For support and information about route 1, University of Southampton authors can visit our website or get in touch with our ePrints team.

In respect to route 2, many publishers impose their own licensing restrictions on the accepted manuscript and embargo periods for when the AM can be made available after initial publication of the VoR. However, if a CC BY license is assigned to the AM prior to an author entering into an agreement with a publisher, the CC BY license will take priority, meaning that the AM can be shared under the terms of the funder’s requirements. To support this, the statement contained in the UKRI policy document should be placed in the funder acknowledgement field of a submission and it is good practice to put information about the prior assignment of rights in the cover letter to the Editor. The only way it is possible for a publisher to prevent the sharing of the AM upon publication with a CC BY license is by desk rejecting a publication. However, it is worth noting that some publishers do ask authors to make representations upon signing an article publishing agreement or copyright transfer agreement that the AM is not subject to a prior assignment of rights or they have obtained a waiver from their funder or institution.

At present, we do not intend to issue any such waivers and we are in full support of Plan S, therefore, in this case we advise authors to seek the removal of this statement prior to signing or to withdraw the paper. The purpose of this strategy is to ensure the public realise the maximum benefit from their investment in our research and as an institution we directly contribute to the sustainability of many of these journals by paying hefty subscriptions; this strategy should not undermine the sustainability of the journals and there are no studies that prove otherwise.

It’s very unfortunate that some publishers have invested so heavily in attempts to undermine the development, implementation and socialisation of the new policies implementing Plan S. The purpose of Plan S to my mind is to help research flourish, to foster collaborations, to build upon research, to realise the full potential of research which should deliver benefits to everyone concerned, including the publishers. I am hopeful that we can demonstrate our support for the concept of better outcomes for our research through action and the complexities introduced to the delivery of this otherwise fairly simple policy will be short lived.

In the University of Southampton Library, we also welcome the news that this policy will apply to long-form research outputs from January 2024. We will be working with our colleagues, especially those in Arts & Humanities and Social Sciences, to meet the necessary challenges.

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Open Access policies: Breaking down paywalls

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