Unlocking arts and humanities research through open access

Abstract image of colourful lines connecting with each other.

What the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) open access policy means for researchers funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

Arts and humanities research has a wide impact. It informs policy, shapes public discourse, and makes key factual resources available, some from the recent past.

AHRC is a public funder, so it is important to ensure that the research we support can be easily accessed and used both within the research system and also more widely. For example, by taxpayers, educators, and practitioners in civil society and daily life.

AHRC has had an open access requirement since 2013, when the research councils’ policy on open access was first introduced in response to the Finch report. Arts and humanities have continued to contribute to the debate, and to pioneer new ideas such as the Open Library of Humanities and Roger Kain’s important work on open access monographs.

Implementation of the new policy

The open access agenda has continued to develop. UKRI published its new open access policy for research publications acknowledging funding from its councils last August. It applies to peer-reviewed research articles submitted for publication from April 2022.

From 1 January 2024, a new open access requirement will apply for:

  • monographs
  • book chapters
  • edited collections.

Many AHRC stakeholders contributed to the review and are supporting subsequent implementation, and the new policy is available on the UKRI website.

Implications for every grant holder

Every UKRI grant holder, including all AHRC grant holders, needs to be fully aware of the rules for publication as set out in the policy. Apart from some exceptions listed in the policy, all publications which acknowledge research council funding will need to be published in an open access format.

The new rules apply from the following dates:

  • in-scope research articles submitted for publication on or after 1 April 2022
  • in-scope monographs, book chapters and edited collections published on or after 1 January 2024.

‘In-scope’ means articles and books covered by the policy. This excludes the few exceptions listed in the policy.

Increase open access options

Support is in place to increase open access options in line with the new policy for a range of publishers and research organisations (ROs).

Jisc, the UK charity and not-for-profit organisation that leads negotiations with academic publishers for research and learning organisations, is playing a role in this area. It is enabling smaller ROs, publishers and learned societies to participate in open access publishing arrangements that comply with immediate open access in line with the policy. Further information is available on their website.

UKRI has also increased its funding for open access and an increased number of ROs are now in receipt of this funding.

From 2024, there will also be a dedicated UKRI fund for open access to:

  • monographs
  • book chapters
  • edited collections.

ROs and researchers, that are publishing in-scope long-form outputs from their AHRC funded research will be able to apply for open access funding from this fund.

What this means for the arts and humanities community

We know that there will be lots of questions about how this is actually going to work. UKRI provides answers to many questions in its frequently asked questions (FAQ) document, which has been shaped with input from members of the arts and humanities community.

But the research sector is wide, with many different publishing practices, and AHRC’s researchers are more varied than most. So anyone with an AHRC grant, present or future, may have to navigate a complex publishing field.

If you have any questions that are not covered in this document, please let us know by emailing openresearch@ukri.org. In response to your questions, we can continue to ensure our FAQs are up to date and supportive of all parts of the research and innovation community.

A principle to support

Open access is a principle which AHRC and arts and humanities generally have every reason to support. After all, we are supporting the most substantial investment ever made in unifying and improving accessibility to our national collections.

But we know we also need to address issues over licensing of third party materials and supporting author choice. We can address this by enabling small run journals, via learned societies and specific communities of knowledge, to offer open access in a sustainable way via compliant agreements.

The Association of Learned Society Publishers has collaborated with research funders to develop resources to help publishers move to open access.

We hope the more detailed information given will help you navigate the overall UKRI policy, and if any of you have further questions that have not been addressed, please get in touch openresearch@ukri.org.

Top image:  Credit: peshkov, iStock, Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

This is the integrated website of the seven research councils, Research England and Innovate UK.
Let us know if you have feedback or would like to help us test new developments.