The Wellcome Trust has made good on pledges to toughen up its policy on open-access publication.
Earlier this year the trust, one of the largest charitable funders of medical research, revealed that only 55% of research papers produced at least partly with its money were compliant with its existing policy requiring they be available free of charge within six months of publication. Mark Walport, director of the Wellcome Trust, said in a statement that it was “simply unacceptable” that so many publications were behind paywalls, and the trust is now stepping up pressure on academic institutions and researchers to make sure those who take its money comply with the rules.
These moves come against a background of heightened debate over open access in the United Kingdom, and the publication of two reports on openness, from the Royal Society and a government panel (see ‘Openness costs’).
Under the trust’s new rules, principle investigators’ institutions will have to guarantee open access for all papers associated with a grant, or forfeit final payments. Failure to make publications open access will also mean any funding renewals and new grant awards will not be made to principal investigators. These rules will be applied retrospectively to articles published from 1 October 2009.
The rules will apply immediately to all new applications and applications for grant renewals. “Ample opportunity” will be given to make existing papers compliant, says the trust, which points out that compliance with its policy is already a condition of grant funding. The trust says it is now unknown how many grants will be affected by the new rules, but around 3,500 non-compliant publications were published between October 2009 and October 2011.
Where papers have been published in journals that do not allow any open access they will be discounted from any researchers’ track records on future grant applications, and other sanctions may also be applied, such as final payments being stopped. Persistent offenders could be barred from any further grant funding.