The UK Research Councils' Open Access policy applies to researchers funded by:

  • Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
  • Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)
  • Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
  • Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
  • Medical Research Council (MRC)
  • Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
  • Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC)

The RCUK policy on open access came into force in April 2013.  It covers all peer-reviewed journal articles and conference proceedings that arise from (in whole or part) and acknowledge RCUK funding, including funding received by students.

The policy has a preference for immediate open access to the paper via the publisher’s website (gold open access) and for that reason provides institutions in receipt of RCUK funding with a block grant each year to cover the costs that may be associated with gold open access (often known as APCs).  If an APC is being paid, they require the use of a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) Licence.  Note that other Creative Commons licences (including the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial licence, CC BY-NC) and many publisher custom licences (including the licence used by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) do not meet the RCUK requirements and so funds for APCs would not be released in those cases.

The policy does also allow papers to be made open access following the green (self-archiving) route.  In these cases they apply maximum embargo periods.  Broadly, these are 6 months for STEM subjects and 12 months for AHSS subjects.  Longer embargo periods may apply if the institutional block grant is exhausted.

Authors are also required to include a statement saying how the data supporting the publication can be accessed, eg through a data centre or repository, or on application to the author(s).

Ideally, RCUK grants should be acknowledged in papers using the full name of the research council followed by the grant number in brackets, eg :

“This work was supported by the Medical Research Council (grant number XXX).”

Further guidance on acknowledging funders can be found here:

The RCUK policy and FAQs can be found at