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Durham University

Research and Innovation Services

UK Research Councils and Open Access

This page covers the UK Research Councils Open Access Policy, which came into force on 1 April 2013.

It aims to provide guidance to those within the University who are funded by one of the seven UK Research Councils (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); and, Science and Technology Research Council (STFC).

The policy is not applicable for research papers acknowledging funding from Innovate UK or Research England).

A useful list of FAQs created by UK Research Councils about this policy can be found on their webpages.

Remember that papers funded by one of the UK Research Councils and submitted for publication on or after 1 April 2013 must meet the following criteria:

"The policy requires funding information to be included within the acknowledgement section of a paper."

This requirement has been in place previously for some research councils, but has now be extended to all. Guidance on how to acknowledge sources of funding was agreed in 2008, and recommends that funding acknowledgements follow the format below:

This work was supported by the Wellcome Trust [grant numbers xxxx, yyyy]; the Natural Environment Research Council [grant number zzzz]; and the Economic and Social Research Council [grant number aaaa].

Full guidance has been archived on the Research Information Network site.

"…the policy requires all research papers, if applicable, to include a statement on how any underlying research materials, such as data, samples or models, can be accessed. However, the policy does not require that the data must be made open. If there are considered to be good or compelling reasons to protect access to the data, for example commercial confidentiality or legitimate sensitivities around data derived from potentially identifiable human participants, these should be included in the statement."

Whilst the policy specifies that it does not require that the data must be made open access, authors should be aware that many funders have separate research data policies which may place a requirement for deposit or curation upon the author. Details of some of these data policies can be found here.

For further information, please see the Research Data webpages, or contact the Research Data Manager directly.

In order to be deemed compliant with RCUK Policy, a journal must:

  • "…provide, via its own website, immediate and unrestricted access to the final published version of the paper, which should be made available using the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence. This may involve payment of an ‘Article Processing Charge’ (APC) to the publisher."


  • Permit the author to deposit their "final Accepted Manuscript in any repository, without restriction on non-commercial re-use and within a defined period. No APC will be payable to the publisher."

These two routes are commonly referred to as the Gold and Green routes to open access.

Routes to Open Access

The RCUK Open Access policy acknowledges the two routes to open access, commonly referred to as Gold and Green. While their preference is for the Gold , RCUK allows researchers to comply with their open access policy through either route.

However, there are stringent requirements for both routes that must be adhered to. The guidance below provides information on what you need to do when following your chosen route to open access.

The policy preference is for “immediate, unrestricted, online access to peerreviewed and published research papers, free of any access charge and with maximum opportunities for reuse”, also known as the Gold route.

As there is commonly a cost involved in this route, UK Research Councils have allocated funding to UK Higher Education Institutes in the form of a block grant to cover the costs of open access. It was agreed by Senate on 5th March 2013 that Durham’s allocation from this funding is used to cover the payment of APCs on a first-come-first-served basis. The preferred option of the University is deposit in Durham Research Online, where copyright and licence agreements permitted, as the primary means of meeting the RCUK Open Access Policy. It was agreed that the choice of route to compliance would remain with the author, and that the RCUK funding would be provided where required whilst it remained available.

If you wish to follow the Gold route to open access and would like to request funding from the RCUK block grant to cover the costs of any article processing changes (APCs), please refer to our guide to requesting RCUK open access funding (PDF updated June 2018) or to the information on this webpage. Requests for funding must be made prior to publication.

Publishing in a fully open access journal or in a journal through which you could not comply with RCUK’s open access policy via the green route?

Check at or ask if unsure.

Request funding at any point from submission and prior to publication

Publishing in a journal through which you could comply with RCUK’s open access policy via the green route?

Check at or ask if unsure.

Request funding on acceptance

If requesting funding before your paper has been accepted for publication, you will receive an email to say that your request has not been fully processed and no funds committed. Upon acceptance, contact to confirm whether funding is available or to explore options.

In addition, you should note that, in order to ensure the maximum opportunity for reuse, RCUK policy also mandates that the Creative Commons Attribution licence is applied to papers that are published via the Gold route. Therefore, you must ensure that you journal of choice will supply this licence if you wish to follow the Gold route, and you must select this licence type when publishing your article.

You can also comply with the RCUK Open Access policy via the Green route, by depositing the final, accepted manuscript of your research article or conference paper in an institutional repository. For Durham, this is Durham Research Online. However, your selected journal must allow the paper to be made open access within a defined period and without restriction on non-commercial reuse.

Where the policy indicates within a defined period, this refers to the maximum embargo period that the journal should apply before the repository can release the article. Please refer to the summary below for an approximation of expectations. Alternatively, you may wish to refer to the full policy, including section 3.6 on embargo periods.

Research Council

Maximum embargo period if no CC-BY gold option is offered by the journal

Maximum embargo period if a CC-BY gold option is offered by the journal but no funding for gold option is available


12 months

24 months


6 months

12 months


6 months

12 months


12 months

24 months


6 months

6 months


6 months

12 months


6 months

12 months

Please see our FAQs page for further information, or contact the library.

For RCUK funded authors wishing to identify the options available to them for a particular journal, please use our online request form.

The SHERPA Funders’ & Authors’ Compliance Tool (SHERPA FACT) will pull information and interpret data from SHERPA RoMEO and JULIET, and other sources to provide clear guidance to RCUK-funded authors on compliance with the RCUK's OA policy and advise on the options available.

We encourage authors to familiarise themselves with the service but also advise them to be aware that specific details may need to be checked directly with the publisher. The Library can offer advice and support on compliance and liaise with publishers directly.