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Research Councils UK logo Excellence with Impact


Research Councils UK and HEFCE work together on Open Access

25 May 2011

Research Councils UK (RCUK) and the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) have announced plans to work together to ensure greater open access to published research. In a speech to the Association of British Science Writers yesterday (24 May), David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science outlined the joint commitment RCUK and HEFCE are making to ensure that open access becomes a reality.

He said: “Transparency is at the heart of the Government’s agenda, and this also applies to published research. In a recent discussion with members of the research community and publishers I stressed the importance of open access to this information for everyone, and I’m delighted that the Research Councils and HEFCE have committed to taking this forward.”

Commenting on the joint commitment, Professor Douglas Kell, RCUK Champion for Information said: “I am delighted that both RCUK and HEFCE have made this commitment to working together on the important issue of Open Access. Research is essential to the growth, prosperity and wellbeing of the UK. Ensuring the widest possible access to research, both within and outside of the research community, will mean that the groundbreaking discoveries made in science and research can have a greater impact on all our lives.”

David Sweeney, HEFCE Director for Research and Innovation, said: “HEFCE is committed to supporting researchers exploiting the full potential of the internet to share and disseminate the outcomes of publicly funded research promptly, effectively, and in new ways. Open access publication in an appropriate form should become a key feature of the new information landscape.”

In making this commitment RCUK and HEFCE have developed the following statement to set out the principles of how they will work together:

“Research Councils UK and HEFCE have a shared commitment to maintaining and improving the capacity of the UK research base to undertake research activity of world leading quality, and to ensuring that significant outputs from this activity are made available as widely as possible both within and beyond the research community. Open access to published research supports this commitment and, if widely implemented, can benefit the research base, higher education, and the UK economy and society more broadly. To achieve this, open access needs to be implemented with clear licensing agreements, sustainable business models, and working with the grain of established research cultures and practices.

HEFCE and the Research Councils will work together and with other interested bodies to support a managed transition to open access over the medium term, and welcome the work of the UK Open Access Implementation Group in support of this aim."

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Further information

Jane Wakefield
RCUK Press and Communications Manager
Tel: 01793 444592

Notes to editors

  1. Further information on the RCUK position on access to research outputs is available here

  2. Further information on HEFCE’s support and funding for research is available at

  3. The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) promotes and funds high-quality, cost-effective teaching and research to meet the diverse needs of students, the economy and society. We develop policies, distribute funds, safeguard quality and assure the proper stewardship of public money. We work closely with universities, colleges and other partners to achieve excellence and impact in education and research, and to provide opportunities for all those who have the ability to benefit from higher education. For the academic year 2011-12, HEFCE will distribute £6,507 million of public money to 130 universities and higher education colleges, and 124 directly funded further education colleges. This includes total research funding of £1,558 million, most of which is allocated selectively through our mainstream, quality-related research funding method.

  4. Research Councils UK (RCUK) is the strategic partnership of the UK's seven Research Councils. We invest annually around £3 billion in research. Our focus is on excellence with impact. We nurture the highest quality research, as judged by international peer review providing the UK with a competitive advantage. Global research requires we sustain a diversity of funding approaches, fostering international collaborations, and providing access to the best facilities and infrastructure, and locating skilled researchers in stimulating environments. Our research achieves impact – the demonstrable contribution to society and the economy made by knowledge and skilled people. To deliver impact, researchers and businesses need to engage and collaborate with the public, business, government and charitable organisations.

    The seven UK Research Councils are:

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