As part of our ongoing work to support smaller and specialist institutions to conduct excellent research, GuildHE Research has been contributing to debates and discussions on Open Research and the development of policies by funders to promote Open Access, in particular the ongoing review being conducted by UKRI, the new strategic body governing research and innovation in the UK. Professor Peter Kettlewell of Harper Adams University reflects on a recent workshop he attended at our invitation.

I was asked by GuildHE Research to contribute a small-institution researcher perspective at a UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Researcher Workshop on open access publication, held on 8 July 2019. UKRI are developing an overarching open access policy for all the research councils, on which they will be consulting in the Autumn.

Open research is desirable: it gets seen and cited by other researchers much faster and more easily. The workshop included researchers from a wide range of academic disciplines and although open access monographs were mentioned, most of the discussion was on open access journal papers and the rest of this blog will focus on journal papers.

Research outputs published in journals or conference proceedings must be open access to count in the Research Excellence Framework. Currently 11 GuildHE Research member institutions make such papers open access through the GuildHE Research repository. This is referred to as ‘Green’ open access. But, frustratingly, many journal papers are not allowed to be Green open access until after an embargo period, and only the abstract is visible
in the repository until the embargo period ends.

So, in addition, authors can pay journals an article processing charge, or APC, for immediate open access – known as ‘Gold’ open access. The main problem with this in small universities, compared with the large research-intensive universities, is the high cost in the absence of specific funding available to cover APCs or journal purchasing arrangements that favour research conducted on a large scale.

One solution for researchers is for the large publishers to move to offsetting publication cost against journal subscriptions, but the main offsetting arrangement (with Springer journals) currently excludes small universities, and many other publishers have yet to move to offsetting.

At the workshop, Rachel Bruce (Head of Open Research at UKRI) acknowledged this issue for smaller universities and the different circumstances of the diversity of institutions, and hopefully they will be taken into account in UKRI negotiations with stakeholders.

The workshop was also a good chance to learn about some of the recent developments in open access academic publication. In physics it has long been the practice to submit the author-prepared manuscript (preprint) to an online archive before submitting to the very long journal publication process (up to three years in a few cases!). Recently, there has been a rapid increase in this free way of getting immediate open access (subject to specific journal rules allowing this – check with the journal or on Sherpa/Romeo service first). For example, the most appropriate preprint archive for biological journal papers may be BioRxiv

New journals are also publishing non-anonymous reviews alongside the paper e.g. F1000Research. And, still under development, is the prospect of publishing each separate component of the research as it is produced in a single open access location with auto-translation, so that language is less of a barrier, and where anyone can post a non-anonymous review e.g. Octopus.

Peter Kettlewell is Professor of Crop Physiology at Harper Adams University and leads a small group of researchers dedicated to reducing crop loss from drought.

With funders around the globe now supporting Open Access through the Plan S initiative, there will be a variety of new publishing models and solutions to come along with new mandates for funded research. It will be vital for researchers at smaller and specialist institutions to be involved in these development to ensure the full diversity of contexts and disciplines are taken into consideration.

GuildHE Research will be gathering in views from smaller and specialist institutions on Open Access over the coming months. To contribute your perspectives email us at