Policy on Open Access

We believe that to maximise the impact of the research we fund, published research articles should be available in an open and unrestricted way. This facilitates rapid sharing of knowledge and promotes innovation, ultimately ensuring that patients can access better treatments sooner.

This policy sets out Cancer Research UK's position on open access publications and how researchers and Host Institutions that receive CRUK funding are expected to provide open and unrestricted access to published research articles.

In all cases, CRUK encourages its researchers to select publishing routes that ensure their research is openly available immediately on publication. These publishing routes should be sought wherever such options exist for their journal of choice that are compliant with the requirements set out below.

Summary of our policy

This policy applies to all CRUK-funded researchers, Host Institutions and funded collaborators in relation to original, primary research publications that are accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. This applies to publications that have been supported, in whole or in part, by CRUK.

The policy does not apply to book chapters, monographs, editorials, reviews or conference proceedings.

This policy and its requirements relate to the publishing of research articles, please see CRUK’s Data Sharing and Preservation Management Policy for requirements relating to the sharing of data that underlies the research articles.

If you have a research paper accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal, you and your Host Institution must ensure that the following requirements are met:

  1. An electronic copy of the final paper must be made freely available in Europe PubMed Central at the time of final publication.

  2. The open access version of your research paper must be published with a CC-BY 4.0 licence unless we have agreed, as an exception, to allow publication under a CC BY-ND licence

  3. You must acknowledge Cancer Research UK funding in the funding acknowledgement section of the paper, using your grant reference number. 

  4. If your research has used patient data, you must use the patient data citation: https://understandingpatientdata.org.uk/data-citation 

  5. In line with our Data Sharing and Management Policy, you must include a data availability statement explaining how the data and software underlying the findings reported in the paper can be assessed by researchers and other users, and use persistent DOIs to cite datasets. 

Routes to compliance

The above requirements can be met through the following routes:

Route 1: Publish in a fully open access or hybrid journal which makes the Version of Record (VoR) freely available immediately on publication. Typically, the journal deposits the final publication in Europe PMC on the authors' behalf.

Route 2: Publish in a subscription journal and make the Author Accepted Manuscript (AAM) available immediately on publication. Typically, the author self-deposits the AAM on Europe PMC at the time of final publication.

Route 3: Publish in a journal that has agreed a transformative agreement with your Host Institution.


In addition, all CRUK-funded researchers are strongly encouraged to:

  • Post preprints of their work en route to peer review.
  • Publish them under a CC-BY licence on a platform that is indexed in Europe PMC.

We believe that the peer review process adds significant value to research articles. Researchers must make sure that the article, after peer review, complies with our Policy as outlined here.

Additional requirements

As per CRUK's grant conditions, researchers must:

  • Provide the CRUK Press Team with a copy of all publications and conference abstracts arising from the Grant Activities at the time of submission for publication via the online manuscript submission form on CRUK's website or email press.office@cancer.org.uk. Any manuscripts and details will be held in the strictest confidence.

Funding for Open Access publishing

CRUK provides funding for researchers to cover fair and reasonable open access publishing costs. CRUK researchers can meet the costs for Article Processing Charges (APCs) in the following ways:

Researchers based at CRUK Institutes, including the Francis Crick Institute

Funds for APCs for researchers based at CRUK Institutes, including the Francis Crick Institute, should be charged to the Institute's core award.

Researchers based at UK universities in receipt of CRUK open access block grants

The primary mechanism through which CRUK funds APC costs is via institutional block grants, which are allocated to Host Institutions annually. These universities have been selected based on our average annual grant spend at each location over the previous five financial years – other UK institutions are not eligible for block awards.

For the year 2022-2023 open access block grants have been awarded to:

  • Cardiff University
  • Imperial College London
  • Institute of Cancer Research
  • King's College London
  • Newcastle University
  • Queen Mary, University of London
  • Queen's University Belfast
  • University College London
  • University of Birmingham
  • University of Bristol
  • University of Cambridge
  • University of Dundee
  • University of Edinburgh
  • University of Glasgow
  • University of Leeds
  • University of Leicester
  • University of Liverpool
  • University of Manchester
  • University of Oxford
  • University of Southampton
  • University of Strathclyde

Please note that if the institution's block grant is exhausted before the end of the grant period, CRUK is unfortunately not able to provide supplements. Further guidance is provided below.

Researchers who do not have access to CRUK Institute funding or CRUK open access block grants

CRUK researchers who are not based at a CRUK Institute or are based at a Host Institution where the block grant has been exhausted may:

  • pay for APCs using any available underspend on their active CRUK response mode grant, or
  • choose to publish in a journal that permits self-archiving of the AAM or VoR in Europe PMC, or
  • choose to publish in a journal that charges low or no publishing fees.

Please note, however, that publication costs must not be charged to response-mode grants where block grant funds are still available.

Frequently asked questions

This policy applies to:

  • All primary research publications, published in peer-reviewed journals, during the award or after the funding period has ended. This includes Registered Reports.
  • Publications which are funded in whole or in part by CRUK.

This policy does not apply to:

  • Review papers (except for meta analyses, such as Cochrane reviews), editorials, commentary
  • Book chapters
  • Monographs 

Where a paper will be published both online and in print, CRUK considers 'final publication' as the earlier of the two dates.

For example, if the online version of the paper is published before the print version, the VoR (or AAM if the green route is taken) must be deposited in Europe PMC at the same time as the journal's online version.

Publishing through the new model of eLife is a way to comply with our open access policy as the Version of Record is made CC BY licence and will be available within EPMC. The open access costs are eligible under CRUK's policy only where it becomes the Version of Record.

In line with our Data Sharing and Management Policy, you must include a data availability statement explaining how the data and software underlying the findings reported in the paper can be assessed by researchers and other users and use persistent DOIs to cite datasets. 

If the author published via the green open access route and self-deposits the AAM (or VoR, where the journal permits) in Europe PMC at the time of publication, then CRUK encourages, though does not require, the AAM to be posted to Europe PMC with a CC BY 4.0 licence.

As well as the requirement to publish via open access routes as set out in this policy, you are reminded that, under our standard Grant Conditions, you must:

  • acknowledge CRUK’s support in the format ‘This work was supported by Cancer Research UK [C ref./A ref. or XXXX\123456]' and, for trial results, the CRUK trial number;

  • check with their university research office whether there are any other pre-publication notification requirements (e.g., arising under a Technology Transfer Agreement, or set out in the Grant Award Letter, or otherwise); and

  • at the time of submission for publication, provide us with details of all publications arising from grants via our online manuscript submission form.

We expect that, where multiple authors have contributed to a paper, only some of whom are CRUK-funded researchers, APC costs should be divided fairly and sensibly between the available sources of funding at the institution that is managing the submission to publication. We do not, however, expect APC charges to be divided between institutions where that would create a disproportionate administrative burden.


Please note that funds for APCs can be accessed via one of the three mechanisms described above (CRUK Institute core funding, CRUK open access block grants and/or available underspend on an active CRUK response mode grant) even where CRUK has only part-funded the research reported in a paper, though CRUK would expect that the APC costs would then be shared between all available funding sources.

We believe that removing barriers to dissemination and reuse will make our funded publications most accessible to all and will help them reach their full research and economic potential.

The Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY 4.0) permits research to be freely copied and reused (for example for text- and data-mining purposes), provided that the original authors are properly credited. This license is the most permissive and is the standard license for open access publishing for commercial and non-commercial publishers.

CC-BY extends to all data, text and images in the publication. For example, if a paper is not licensed with CC-BY then figures cannot be included in a blog post or a Wikipedia page: most websites carry advertising, so this would be considered a commercial use.

In addition, in cases where compliance is achieved through self-deposition in Europe PMC (Route 2), we still strongly encourage licensing the research with CC-BY 4.0.

Learn more about the CC-BY license

If you would like to check that the publisher of your chosen journal is compliant, search the SHERPA/FACT database. Select the name of the relevant journal and Cancer Research UK  – as your funder as long as the results show at least one 'tick' (ü), the journal is compliant by that route.

No, the journal checker tool was developed for Plan S signatories and CRUK is not currently a Plan S signatory. (Read CRUK's supportive statement on Plan S)

Authors and library services teams are encourage to use SHERPA/FACT and consult CRUK's policy web page

You can also contact policies@cancer.org.uk to discuss any queries.

If the journal does not have an open access option and does not allow self-archiving without embargo in Europe PMC, this is unlikely to comply with the conditions of your grant. Though the vast majority of journals do have compliant policies, some do not; notably Blood. If this is the case, there are two options:

  1. Agree to a journal’s normal arrangements, but specify an additional agreement that deposition in Europe PubMed Central can take place. This deposit must happen immediately on publication. The agreement could be as follows:
    “Notwithstanding any of the other provisions of this agreement, the journal acknowledges that the researcher will be entitled to deposit an electronic copy of the final, peer-reviewed manuscript for inclusion in PubMed Central (PMC), and for this manuscript to be mirrored to all PMC international sites, such as Europe PMC. Manuscripts deposited with PMC (and Europe PMC) may be made freely available immediately to the public, via the internet, on the official date of publication in the journal”
  2. Reconsider where to publish. This should hopefully be an exceptional circumstance, since the vast majority of journals will be compliant with this policy.

Authors can choose to publish their research in a hybrid journal provided their publication meets the requirements of this policy. CRUK block grants can be used to pay for APCs for immediate open access in hybrid journals, provided these other conditions are met.

If you have paid an APC to a journal or you are publishing within a Transformative Agreement between your Host Institution and your preferred publisher, in most cases the journal should deposit the article in Europe PMC at the time of final publication on your behalf. In some cases, your journal may allow you (or your Host Institution to deposit the article in Europe PMC yourself (Route 2).

With the agreement of the publisher, authors can deposit a copy of the final, peer-reviewed publication (AAM, or VoR where permitted by the journal) in Europe PMC plus.

Sometimes university Offices of Information Services or Library Services can assist with this.

Manuscripts may be submitted by the author, or by anyone given access to the author’s accepted manuscript – for example administrative personnel, graduate students and librarians. If the author is the PI, submissions should be made by the Europe PMC plus log-in which has been automatically supplied to the PI. If the author is not the PI, a user-created log-in can be created on the Europe PMC plus site. If you are a PI and have not received or have mislaid this log-in, please contact the Europe PMC helpdesk at +44 (0)1223 494118 or by email to helpdesk@europepmc.org.

Submissions must always be approved; either by the PI or by someone else who the PI has authorised to do so. Processing of the submitted papers will happen once approval is given.

We encourage authors to make their papers compliant with the policy in all cases. At this stage we are not implementing sanctions for non-compliant publications. Other funders (such as the Wellcome Trust) already have sanctions in place; therefore, authors are advised to check the policies of each funder acknowledged in the publication. Authors are also reminded that to be eligible for submission to the REF, research articles must be made open access.

CRUK funds can be used for the payment of fair and reasonable APCs for fully open access publishing. We also allow CRUK block grants to be used to support Transformative Agreements. Further information can be found in the Funding for Open Access publishing section of this page. Please also refer to our Costs Guidance.

CRUK funds including block grants and grant underspend cannot be used for any other costs associated with publication, such as page and colour charges and non-open access publication fees.

Articles must be compliant with CRUK's policy as detailed above.

CRUK will not require authors to give notice to journals at the point of submission that they will apply a CC BY licence to their AAM by applying a rights retention statement. Should authors wish to, or be required by another funder, they can apply a Rights Retention Statement to their submission.

CRUK supports the provision of flexibility for authors whilst ensuring research publications can have maximum impact and benefit. We intend to continue to engage with other funders and across the sector and monitor developments on this issue.

CRUK-funded researchers are reminded of the requirement that research papers (either VoR or AAM) must be published with a CC BY 4.0 licence and authors can use the SHERPA/FACT database to check their preferred journal is compliant with CRUK's policy.

CRUK funds can be used to cover fair and reasonable APCs for articles published in open access journals and platforms. CRUK recognise that different journals and publishers provide different services which means that APC charges can vary. 

CRUK expect authors to be aware of the costs of publishing in different journals and to select journals that represent value for money.

Unfortunately, we are not in a position to provide top-up or bridging grants where an institution’s CRUK block grant allocation for the year has been exhausted. In these circumstances, our advice to researchers is to either:

  • pay for APCs using any available underspend on their active CRUK response mode grant, or other funding sources, or

  • choose to publish in a journal that permits self-archiving of the author's AAM or VoR in Europe PMC, or

  • choose to publish in a journal that charges low or no publishing fees

In principle, institutions may enter into pre-payment schemes and use their CRUK block grants or Institute core funds to reimburse the APC costs. However, this is on the strict condition that:

  • Institutions must always ensure that authors are able to publish in their journal of choice (providing that it is compliant with our policy).
  • Institutions must not enter into a deal that would compromise their ability to report transparently on the actual APC of each research paper.
  • Only actual incurred APCs may be claimed back from CRUK block grants; funds held in a pre-payment account but not yet used to publish a funded research paper cannot be claimed for.

Where we commission specific research and/or undertake research in-house that is accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed publication, we are committed to publishing via open access routes and to complying with the requirements of this policy ourselves.

While we have become a supporter of Plan S, and are adopting an immediate open access policy, we are not becoming a signatory to Plan S at this stage, and will continue to provide funding for open access publishing costs for CRUK funded articles in hybrid journals. 

For more information read our supportive statement on Plan S.

Contact us

For any queries relating to our open access policy, please contact policies@cancer.org.uk.

For guidance about how to access the CRUK open access block grants, please contact your university Office of Information Services or Library.