Opening access

At June 2014’s meeting of the School of Healthcare Sciences’ Research and Innovation Committee there is an agenda item on the UK higher education funding councils’ new policy for open access in the post-2014 Research Excellence Framework. This document contains important information for UK academics with aspirations for future REF return. Here’s a snip from the opening pages, addressing the new requirements for journal articles:

[…] to be eligible for submission to the post-2014 REF, authors’ final peer-reviewed manuscripts must have been deposited in an institutional or subject repository on acceptance for publication. Deposited material should be discoverable, and free to read and download, for anyone with an internet connection. […] The policy applies to research outputs accepted for publication after 1 April 2016, but we would strongly urge institutions to implement it now.

Elsewhere the policy states that publishers’ embargo periods before final versions of papers are deposited can be respected, but with limits. For articles included in submissions to REF Main Panel A (and that includes Nursing), the maximum time period before REF-eligible papers must be made freely available in either green or gold open access format will be 12 months.

There are circumstances in which future REF panels can make exceptions to these rules, but (by the looks of things) not many. In any case, plenty of publishers and individual journals already use copyright transfer agreements which allow authors to comply. It is precisely because of these agreements that I have been able to freely deposit full-text, post-peer review, green open access versions of many of my publications in Cardiff University’s Orca repository and to include links to them on this blog.

But not all journals are currently using copyright transfer agreements which adhere to these new rules. Here’s an example. Nicola Evans’ and my recent paper on critical junctures appears in Social Theory & Health, which is published by Palgrave Macmillan. The journal’s current copyright transfer arrangement (which we signed) allows authors to deposit a post-peer review version of their accepted articles to a repository, but only after an embargo period of 18 months. As things stand, this fails to meet the post-2016 requirement for articles eligible for return to Main Panel A in the next REF. As Palgrave will surely want REF-aspirant nurses (and others) to continue submitting papers to its journals this embargo period will have to be reduced by at least six months.

And then there are the journals published by Wiley Blackwell, including the Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing. I’ve published lots in this over the years, most recently on work and roles. The relevant copyright transfer agreement can be viewed here, in which I see that authors retain the right to:

[…] self-archive the peer-reviewed (but not final) version of the Contribution on the Contributor’s personal website, in the Contributor’s company/institutional repository or archive, and in certain not for profit subject-based repositories such as PubMed Central as listed at the following website:, subject to an embargo period of 12 months for scientific, technical and medical (STM) journals and 24 months for social science and humanities (SSH) journals following publication of the final Contribution.

So peer reviewed, but not ‘final’, versions of accepted papers can be deposited? But it’s the ‘final’ versions which the funding councils specify must be made available. But might ‘final’ mean different things to different people? If Wiley uses ‘final’ to refer to the formatted, pdf, versions of papers identical in every way to the versions appearing in its journals, then authors depositing their word-for-word, post-peer review, author-accepted green open access versions will be compliant. But if ‘final’ for Wiley refers to the accepted, word-for-word (but not necessarily value-added) versions of papers then the inability of authors to make green open access deposits becomes a problem from 2016. So perhaps this all needs some clarification.


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