FAQ – RCUK policy and funding for APCs

UKRI has announced its new policy and this page is under construction 6/8/21 – NOTE until 01/04/21 the current UKRI policy applies

UKRI block grant status between 10/2021 and 04/2022:



    • How and when do researchers apply for APC (Article Processing Charge) funding? What is Oxford’s current policy?

      Please apply at the point of article acceptance. The APC team will advise if funds are available in our block grant and if the journal is eligible. Oxford’s current policy, procedure and form are at: http://openaccess.ox.ac.uk/applying-for-funding-from-oxfords-rcuk-open-access-block-grant/. Please don’t pay the invoice yourself. The APC will be paid directly from the RCUK block grant to the publisher.

      We also ask you to ‘Act on Acceptance’ and deposit the manuscript into ORA via Symplectic; go to https://oxris.ox.ac.uk/ and log in with Oxford single-sign-on. Which version to upload – deposit your Author Accepted Manuscript (final peer-reviewed version, before type-setting).

    • How much is our RCUK Block Grant and what does it cover?

      The OA Block Grant from RCUK to Oxford was £1.1m and £1.3m for the first two years from 1st April 2013. The policy and block grant apply to peer‐reviewed papers (except invited reviews) which acknowledge Research Council funding. RCUK’s policy states:

      The RCUK OA block grant is intended principally to support the payment of APCs. However, Research Organisations may use the block grant in the manner they consider will best deliver the RCUK Policy on Open Access, as long as the primary purpose to support the payment of APCs is fulfilled. The payment of colour charges and page charges may also be taken from the block grant at the discretion of the managing research organisation which should keep in mind the overall purpose of the block grant which is to support the payment of APCs.

      For costs associated with the production of other types of research outputs that are not covered currently by the RCUK OA policy’ (e.g. publication costs for outputs such as monographs, books, critical editions, volumes and catalogues), you should continue to request these on your grant proposal.

      Please note: If you applied for Article Processing Charges (APCs) or other article-related charges, such as the costs of illustrations, colour figures or excess pages, etc in a pre-April 2013 Research Council grant proposal (AHRC, BBSRC, EPSRC, ESRC, MRC, NERC, STFC) and were allocated funds for this purpose, you should use your existing research grant funds to pay those costs.

    • Does Oxford’s RCUK Block Grant pay for colour charges or page charges?

      Our current policy is to pay the following article-related charges if non-payment would prevent publication: page charges and publishing fees; and colour charges in fully OA journals only.

      For other situations you will need to look elsewhere for funds, or ask the journal about opting to have your charts and graphics published in colour in the online version only and B&W in the print version.

      A free way to make the colour versions of your figures/tables/images available is to deposit them into ORA either as part of your AAM (Author Accepted Manuscript) or as separate files, which you could then link to.

    • Does Oxford’s RCUK Block Grant pay APCs for invited/commissioned review articles?

      No. RCUK’s OA policy and block grant apply only to peer‐reviewed papers (not invited reviews).

      Moreover, authors are advised to stipulate that they will only write an invited review on condition that it is published OA. The UKRI/RCUK Open Access FAQ 1.9 states that: ‘In the case where the publisher/editor was asking a researcher to give their time to write something at their request, then the researcher (and their funder) should not on top be asked to pay a fee for open access. The block grant should not be used to pay for it, but nevertheless we would recommend trying to make the publication open access, either by asking the publisher to waive the APC or by self-archiving. We would also advise researchers to agree upfront with the editor that they will only write a review if it will be published as immediate open access at no extra costs. ‘

    • Can the RCUK block grant be used to pay charges for books/monographs or book chapters to be open access?

      No. Researchers should use their own grant to cover these costs (ie. if you plan to produce an OA book or chapter, include costs in your grant application).

      See RCUK policy section 3.11, Allowable costs within Research Applications: ‘It remains permissible for grant proposals to request publication costs associated with the production of other types of research outputs that are not covered currently by the RCUK OA policy. Publication costs for outputs such as monographs, books, critical editions, volumes and catalogues may be requested but, as with any cost, they will still need to be fully justified within the application.’

      RCUK policy (and the block grant) applies only to peer‐reviewed research articles (including review articles not commissioned by publishers) and conference proceedings that acknowledge funding from the UK’s Research Councils. It does not cover monographs, books, critical editions, volumes and catalogues, or forms of non‐peer‐reviewed material (although authors are encouraged to consider making them OA where possible – see RCUK policy section 3.2, What is covered by the policy?).

    • My paper is co-authored – how does applying for an APC work?

      Specifically the question focuses around eligibility for APC payment when a paper has been written in collaboration with authors from other UK universities in receipt of RCUK OA Funding, and from other countries. The University’s RCUK OA Block Grant allocation policy (March 2020) states:

      Where a paper has been written in collaboration with authors from other UK universities in receipt of RCUK OA Funding, Oxford will pay the whole APC as described above in this policy, where the Oxford author is the corresponding author and the grant is held at Oxford. Other UK universities take a similar approach, but where this is not the case and an Oxford coauthor (who is not the corresponding author) is approached to contribute to the cost of an APC, the University will pay a proportion of the cost relative to the number of UK authors supported by Research Council funding. Where a paper has been written in collaboration with authors from other countries, Oxford will pay the whole APC upon request from the Oxford co-author.

    • I am a biomedical author and must make my work OA within 6 months via PubMed Central – yet my journal will not let me deposit the author-accepted version (green). How will I be catered for?

      Check with the APC team if you are eligible for gold funds from the University’s block grant from RCUK. Eligibility is summarised in the University’s APC policy and on the APC application form, both of which are available here.

    • Can I apply for APC funds from Oxford’s RCUK block grant if I have left Oxford and moved to another university?

      Yes – if you would have been eligible if still at Oxford, ie your article arises from and acknowledges your Oxford RCUK grant, the work was carried out at Oxford and the article includes your University of Oxford author affiliation. Check with the APC team if you and the journal are eligible under the current University APC policy for the RCUK OA block grant and application form, both of which are available here.

      RCUK OA policy FAQ 3.4 states that universities can decide whether to use their block grant to fund APCs for this purpose (and for how long after leaving).

    • If my research project has ended, can I still apply to the RCUK Block Grant?

      Yes. The RCUK open access block grant covers publications both during and after the research project.

    • What has been RCUK Open Access policy since April 2013?

      RCUK, in line with many other funding bodies, published a new policy as a direct outcome of the July 2012 Finch report, ‘Accessibility, sustainability, excellence: how to expand access to research publications’. It requires RCUK-funded papers submitted for publication from 1 April 2013 to be open access within 6 months of publication (Science & Medicine) / within 12 months of publication (Humanities & Social Science).

      RCUK’s Expectations for Researchers:

      Researchers, as the generators of all of the research papers and responsible for much of their peer review, are expected to publish any peer‐reviewed research papers which acknowledge Research Council funding in journals that are compliant with the RCUK policy on Open Access. All papers must include details of the funding that supported the research and, if applicable, a statement on how the underlying research materials – such as data, samples or models – can be accessed.

      Where researchers used to apply on specific grants for funds to cover Article Processing Charges (APCs), these are no longer eligible costs on grant – instead RCUK allocates a Block Grant to universities (like Oxford) who have a threshold level of RCUK funding. The notion of a ‘RCUK-compliant’ journal was introduced, as was the RCUK stated preference for Gold OA. If a fee is paid the article must be published under the CC BY attribution licence.

      Procedures at the University are in place to enable researchers to comply with RCUK’s policy on Open Access where possible. Essentially there are two ways to comply – by going ‘green’ and self-archiving the post-print (author accepted manuscript) in our repository ORA or a funder-mandated repository (eg. Europe PMC) or by going ‘gold’ and applying for funds from the University’s block grant. To find out more please see ‘What do I need to do – Meeting RCUK OA Requirements at Oxford University

    • What are RCUK-compliant journals?

      A journal is ‘RCUK-compliant’ if it allows the author to deposit a peer-reviewed version in a repository within RCUK timeframes (6 months for Science and Medicine, 12 months for Humanities and Social Sciences) or it allows immediate open access (Gold) with CC BY attribution – normally this requires payment of an APC. You could use the SHERPA/FACT tool to find information about whether a journal offers a compliant option.

    • Will this affect my freedom to choose where I publish?

      Continued freedom to publish where you choose is central to the University of Oxford’s response to funders’ open access policies. Discussions between academic divisions, University Research Committee, the PVC-R&I and others about how best to distribute the RCUK block grant regularly take place and Oxford’s policy on allocating it is available at http://openaccess.ox.ac.uk/applying-for-funding-from-oxfords-rcuk-open-access-block-grant/. It is clear that the grant is insufficient to cover all Oxford’s research publications that come under the RCUK policy. The University’s preferred route is ‘green’ open access and authors are in any case asked to deposit a copy in ORA (and in any mandated subject repository such as EuropePMC). There is usually no cost to the author for this option.

    • What happens if the RCUK block grant runs out?

      Whilst the Wellcome Trust has indicated that it is willing to increase its OA block grant if the costs of APCs rise, the RCUK allocations are fixed. Our RCUK allocation is insufficient to cover all research publications that come under the policy. In complying with funder mandates, therefore, we favour, now and for the foreseeable future, open access by means of the Green Route. This enables authors to publish in a journal and to self-archive a version of the article for free public use. Thus the Green approach provides most of the benefits for a much smaller additional cost than Gold Open Access (which often involves paying Article Processing Charges).

      RCUK policy allows longer embargoes for green route if the block grant runs out: 12 months for Science, 24 months for Humanities & Social Science (para 3.6.iii, ‘where funding for APCs is unavailable…longer embargo periods will be allowable’. Also RCUK’s FAQ 2.2, ‘What happens if there is no money to pay…?’).

      The University’s current policy for allocating funds from the RCUK Open Access block grant for APCs and article-related charges can be found on our Applying for funding from Oxford’s RCUK open access block grant page. Our policy aims to best manage the funds awarded and remaining during the block grant year (1 April- 31 March).

      All Oxford authors should in all cases depositing the accepted manuscript in ORA for Act on Acceptance.

      What we do not wish to see is for the RCUK policy to dictate publication venue; this must remain the author’s decision. We do not wish to see financial issues dictate academic choice, and materially damage the standing of the research.

    • What about open access policy for Innovate UK research articles? Does the RCUK Block Grant cover these?

      Whilst Innovate UK is part of UKRI, it is not one of the Research Councils and therefore not eligible for our RCUK block grant. The RCUK OA policy FAQ 3.9 states: ‘Can the block grant be used to pay for APCs etc resulting from research funded by Innovate UK or the UK Space Agency?

      Innovate UK and the UK Space Agency are not part of RCUK, so unless the research is also funded by one of the research councils, the block grant cannot be used for this purpose.’

      Innovate UK’s guidance on applying for funding nevertheless indicates that articles should follow the guidelines of the RCUK OA policy:

      “Innovate UK supports the principle of open access for a project which has specifically identified a requirement to publish outcomes as a route to dissemination. This requirement should be included within a project’s collaboration agreement. It should also follow the guidelines contained in the Research Councils UK (RCUK) policy on open access.

      Additional costs for publication charges will not be considered.”

    • I am funded by the UKRI Strategic Priorities Fund (SPF). Am I eligible for the RCUK OA Block Grant?

      Yes. All strands of the SPF programme are delivered by one of the seven Research Councils so journal articles should be acknowledging a specific Research Council award and are therefore eligible for funding from the RCUK block grant (subject to Oxford’s policy conditions).

      More information about the Strategic Priorities Fund can be found at https://www.ukri.org/research/themes-and-programmes/strategic-priorities-fund/.

    • I am funded by the UKRI Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF). Am I eligible for the RCUK OA Block Grant?

      Yes, if the GCRF award is from a UK Research Council.  (Check the award letter). Other types of GCRF from general UKRI (QR – internal University) funding are not eligible as these are from Research England, not Research Councils. Also not eligible are the non-UKRI strands of GCRF, such as British Academy (BA) or Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng).

      If the journal article acknowledges a specific Research Council grant, you are eligible for funding from the RCUK OA block grant (subject to Oxford’s policy conditions).

      More information about the GCRF programme can be found at https://globalresearch.admin.ox.ac.uk/gcrf-oda/gcrf.