Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Thursday, September 06, 2007

AHRC announces its OA policy

The UK Arts & Humanities Research Council announced its long-awaited OA policy today.  You can find it on the AHRC access policy page and in Appendix 9 of its lengthy (111 pp.) Research Funding Guide for 2007/08:

It is the AHRC’s position that authors choose where to place their research for publication. It is for authors’ institutions to decide whether they are prepared to use funds for any page charges or other publishing fees. Such funds could be part of an institution’s indirect costs under the full economic costing regime....

The AHRC requires that funded researchers:

  • ensure deposit of a copy of any resultant articles published in journals or conference proceedings in appropriate repository
  • wherever possible, ensure deposit of the bibliographical metadata relating to such articles, including a link to the publisher’s website, at or around the time of publication

Full implementation of these requirements must be undertaken such that current copyright and licensing policies, for example, embargo periods and provisions limiting the use of deposited content to noncommercial purposes, are respected by authors.

The final paragraph is emphasized (in bold type) in the Funding Guide but not emphasized on the access policy page.


  • I applaud the mandatory language.  But the policy is sketchy on most other important details.  It doesn’t indicate which version should be deposited or what counts as an appropriate repository.  It urges immediate deposit for metadata but doesn’t do so for the text itself.  It gives no timetable for depositing the text and no maximum length for the delay or embargo. 
  • It gives nearly as much space to the exception as it does to the policy, and creates the same gigantic loophole as the new CIHR policy and the older ESRC policy.  If publishers don’t want their authors to make any version of their articles OA, they only have to adopt a house rule to that effect and suddenly the AHRC policy does not apply to AHRC grantees who submit work that that publisher.
  • The AHRC is the sixth of the seven Research Councils UK to announce its OA policy.  If this kind of mandatory language qualified by a vitiating exception can be called a mandate, then it’s also the sixth to adopt a mandate. The other five are at the BBSRC, ESRC, MRC, NERC, and STFC.  The EPSRC is still deliberating.  Of the six RCUK OA policies, three allow authors to use grant funds for publication fees at fee-based OA journals (MRC, NERC, STFC) and three do not (AHRC, BBSRC, ESRC).