Policy: eLife supports UKRI proposals to require open access

UK agency for research and innovation concludes consultation on strategy to ensure open access to peer-reviewed research.
Inside eLife
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eLife has responded to a review of open access by UKRI, the agency that oversees £7 billion of annual spending by the UK government on research and innovation. Our input is directed at those sections of the consultation focusing on peer-reviewed journal articles, the timing of the policy’s implementation, licensing and technical standards.

We encourage UKRI to implement a policy requiring open access as soon as possible. Open access to new research accelerates discovery, and there are a multitude of repositories and high-quality journals available to peer-review and publish the outcomes of UKRI-funded research today, including eLife.

We’ve summarised our response to the consultation below. Our key points are that we encourage publishers to make data on publication costs available, we encourage policy makers to require open access to preprints – especially when there could be significant public benefit and in an emergency – we support use of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license, and we believe observing key technical standards is important for maximising dissemination and discovery of research.

More information about the UKRI Open Access Review is available on their website.

1. We encourage publishers to make data on publication costs available

With each year’s annual report, eLife provides our audited financial statements, US 990, and a detailed breakdown of publishing costs and revenue, which we earn from publication fees. Since 2015, we have reported costs for payments to editors, maintaining online systems, staff and outsourcing, article processing, producing non-research content, and marketing. Our annual reports are available at https://elifesciences.org/annual-reports. We believe publishers can and should provide information on costs and pricing for publishing and other activities that may be supported through publishing fees.

We do not feel that UKRI funds should be permitted to support open-access publication in hybrid journals.

2. We encourage policy makers to require open access to preprints

We do believe UKRI should require preprints to be made openly available “where there is a significant benefit with regard to public emergencies.” The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated how preprints can speed up the sharing of discovery in a time of public emergency. The sharing of the SARS-CoV-2 sequence at the end of January is an example of this.

We would support UKRI allowing preprints to be included as valid submissions to any assessment exercises. We would also encourage UKRI to consider the posting of manuscripts accepted for publication in a journal as compliant with its open-access policies.

3. We support a requirement for funded works to be made available under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license

As an open-access publisher, eLife requires only a non-exclusive right to publish. We therefore believe “UKRI should require an author or their institution to retain copyright and not exclusively transfer this to a publisher.”

We believe that CC BY licenses, without restrictions, are the fairest, most effective way of ensuring that research can be accessed and re-used by the broader community. The offer of more restrictive licenses has in the past resulted in confusion among authors. Restrictive licences such as CC BY-NC (non-commercial) or ND (no derivatives) limit the opportunity for text and data mining, machine learning and other enhancements to the research literature. We do not support a case-by-case exception allowing CC BY-ND. CC BY-ND is not well understood by authors.

4. We believe observing key technical standards is important for maximising dissemination and discovery of research

UKRI has asked for feedback on seven proposed technical standard requirements for journals and open-access platforms. We have expressed our strong support for five standards in particular:

  • Implementation of persistent digital object identifiers (PIDs) for research outputs “according to international standards such as DOI, URN or Handle.”
  • Embedding “machine-readable information on the OA status and the licence” within the article, “in a standard, non-proprietary format”, to facilitate text and data mining.
  • Long-term preservation “via a robust preservation programme such as CLOCKSS, Portico or an equivalent.”
  • Open access to citation data, according to the standards set out by the Initiative for Open Citations (I4OC).
  • Registration of self-archiving policies in the SHERPA RoMEO database.

We have not advocated for the adoption of a defined application profile for article-level metadata. Our experience is that metadata standardisation is a significant challenge. We support the use of a profile that is CC0, and the development of international best practices including the Crossref schema, OpenAIRE, Metadata2020 and/or JATS. However we do not feel that the profiles named by UKRI so far are sufficient to encompass the demands of publishing in biology and medicine.

With respect to technical standards and practices, we have encouraged UKRI to also consider:

  • JATS (a named collection of XML elements and attributes that can be used to mark the structure and semantics of a single journal article);
  • JATS4R (a set of recommended practices of how to apply JATS tagging to aid consistency across corpuses and aid mining);
  • CRediT/Contributor Roles Taxonomy (a high-level taxonomy used to represent and describe each contributor’s specific contribution to the research);
  • Crossref’s Open Funder Registry (an open registry of grant-giving organisation names and identifiers);
  • FORCE11 recommendations for data and software citation.


Questions and comments are welcome. Please annotate publicly on the article or contact us at hello [at] elifesciences [dot] org.

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