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RCUK to introduce block grants for Open Access Publishing

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Research Councils UK has today, 8th November, announced the details of the block grant funding mechanism that it is introducing to aid implementation of its policy on Open Access that was announced in July and is due to come into effect in April 2013.

The block grants, which will be provided by the Research Councils from April, are to fund article processing charges (APCs). Research Councils are committed to providing funding for APCs in the long term; however, funding levels are only specified at present for an initial period of two years from 1 April 2013 to 31 March 2015.There will be an interim review in 2014 to consider how the system is working and to determine the level of funding to be provided in the next Spending Review period post 2014/15.

The funding the Research Councils will allocate to supporting APCs is likely to increase in line with the expected growth in take up and the estimated total cost of APCs over this initial five year period. This also reflects the time that will be needed for researchers, institutions and publishers to transition into a Gold OA model.

In the first year (2013/14), RCUK will provide funding to enable around 45% of Research Council funded research papers to be published using Gold Open Access growing to over 50% in the second year. By the fifth year (2017/18) funding is expected to be provided to enable approximately 75% of Research Council funded research papers to be published using Gold Open Access. The remaining 25% of Research Council funded papers, it is expected will be delivered via the Green Open Access model. The same compliance expectation applies to Research Council institutes, and separate funding arrangements are being put in place to facilitate this.

Universities will receive APC publication funding in proportion to the amount of direct labour costs awarded on grants that they have received over the three years from April 2009 to March 2012. Direct labour costs have been used as a proxy of research effort leading to the generation of publications.

In order to ensure that there is administrative efficiency in the new funding mechanism for both universities and the Research Councils, a cut-off point has been set so that only institutions that are eligible for a block grant of £10, 000 or more in year-5 will receive funding. As part of the interim review in 2014 the Research Councils will look at any issues around this cut off point and, in discussion with the research community, will continue to consider whether there is the need for strategic intervention in special cases. Although not all institutions in receipt of Research Council funding will receive a block grant, the Research Councils expect that around 99% of papers arising from the research that they fund will be produced by researchers in institutions to be awarded a block grant.

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