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The monograph open access policy landscape

The open access discussions have, for the past decade or so, focused on journal articles, and increasingly conference proceedings. But now the focus is starting to move towards making publicly funded monographs open access.

Wellcome Trust

In October 2013, the Wellcome Trust extended its open access policy to include scholarly monographs and book chapters authored or co-authored by Trust grantholders that arise as part of their grantfunded research. After a staggered introduction in 2013/2014 the policy now applies to all grantholders. Grantholders are required to make scholarly monographs and book chapters available through PubMed Bookshelf and Europe PubMed Central (Europe PMC) as soon as possible, with a maximum embargo of six months. Where an open access publishing fee is levied, such works must be available without embargo, and be licensed in ways which support their re-use. There are comprehensive FAQs here on the Wellcome website. Wellcome Trust grantholders or publishers of research funded by the Wellcome Trust can use the deposit form available from the Wellcome Trust to deposit a monograph or book chapter for inclusion in PubMed Bookshelf and Europe PMC.


HEFCE set up the Monograph and Open Access Project with the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). The report was released in January 2015. A summary of the findings are here. HEFCE have stated they will consider the report and discuss its policy implications with the AHRC and ESRC but that they recognise that 'any steps towards policies for open-access monographs should be preceded by a thorough process of consultation and engagement'. In December 2016, HEFCE and the three other UK higher education funding bodies shared their intent to extend the REF Open Access policy to include long-form scholarly works and monographs in the exercise after REF 2021.


The RCUK released their Review of the implementation of the RCUK Policy on Open Access in March 2015. The comment on monographs was: "There was also concern in some disciplines, notably the arts and humanities, that there could be a further extension of the policy to include monographs, as the Wellcome Trust has done. Learned societies in these disciplines thought any extension should be approached by RCUK cautiously. Within the oral evidence, Rupert Gatti, representing Open Book Publishing, stated that although the RCUK open access policy had been excellent at raising awareness of and encouraging open access, the current configuration of the policy had been slightly negative to its business model of publishing open access monographs. Previously, researchers had been using funds allocated for open access within their grant to fund open access publishing of monographs. As the RCUK mandate does not extend to monographs, researchers now feel unable to use the block grant to support publishing of open access monographs even though it would support the vision of the policy. However, it is worth noting that, for AHRC, the costs of publishing a monograph via open access is still an eligible cost which can be included within a grant application." (p15)

Research England

Research England (replacing HEFCE as of 1 April 2018) are currently exploring a few issues that might arise from the new OA policy for monographs after REF 2021, such as funding and the need to deliver a consultation across the whole sector. In order to help inform future policy decisions on Open Access for monographs, they have a plan to collect and analyse data to answer the challenges faced by sector representatives. In a blog released in July 2018, Research England states that while they want research of all kinds to be submitted to the REF, they are “committed to ensuring flexible arrangements for exceptions to the policy where books cannot reasonably meet OA requirements”. 


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