Policy on Open Access

We believe that the best way to maximise the impact of the research we fund is to provide open and unrestricted access to published research. This facilitates rapid sharing of knowledge and promotes innovation, ultimately ensuring that patients can access better treatments sooner.

Our open access policy

As a CRUK-funded researcher, if you have an original primary article accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal, you must ensure that:

  1. An electronic copy of the final, published form of your paper (either the Author Accepted Manuscript (AAM) or Version of Record (VoR) is available on Europe PubMed Central (Europe PMC) as soon as possible and no later than 6 months after publication. For articles accepted for final publication on or after 1 January 2022 we require that your paper is made openly available in Europe PMC immediately on publication. (i.e. a 6-month embargo will not be permitted).

  2. If you've paid an article processing charge (APC) for the Europe PMC deposit, your paper must be published with a Creative Commons Attribution licence (CC-BY 4.0), so that it may be freely copied and reused (for example, for text- and data-mining purposes), providing that the original authors are properly credited. Other licences will not be compliant with your Grant Conditions.

  3. Cancer Research UK will only fund APCs where the publisher is compliant with our policy. 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’, the journal is compliant by that route.

All CRUK-funded researchers are strongly encouraged to:

  • post preprints of their work en route to publication in a peer-reviewed journal.
  • 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.

Accessing funding for article processing charges

CRUK researchers can cover costs for Article Processing Charges (APCs) in the following ways:

Researcher based at CRUK Institutes, including the Francis Crick Institute

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

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

For the period between 1 October 2020 and 30 September 2021. CRUK has provided designated block grants to support the payment of article processing charges (APCs) at the following UK universities. 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.

Open access block grants have been awards 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
  • University of Sussex

To access these funds, CRUK researchers based at these institutions should contact their Office of Information Services or Library.

Please note that if these block grant are exhausted before the end of the grant period, CRUK is unfortunately not able to provide supplements. Please see further FAQs 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 one of the UK universities listed above 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 author's accepted manuscript (AAM) or version of record (VoR) in Europe PMC.

Researchers who are based at one of the universities above but whose CRUK block grant has been exhausted may do the same.

Frequently asked questions

This policy applies to:

  • All primary research publications published after 1st October 2014 which acknowledge a Cancer Research UK grant, either published during the award or after the funding period has ended.
  • All papers on which at least one author is in receipt of a Cancer Research UK grant, provided the paper in question is directly related to cancer research.

This policy does not apply to:

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

Yes. 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 shard between all available funding sources.

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. 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. 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.

Where an article processing charge (APC) is paid, works must be made available immediately and must be given a CC-BY 4.0 license. This is in line with policies of other UK funders. In cases where compliance is achieved through deposition in a repository and an embargo period, we still strongly encourage licensing the research with CC-BY 4.0.

Learn more about the CC-BY license

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.

To check whether a journal, to which you wish to submit a paper, offers a publication policy that is compliant with CRUK requirements, check the SHERPA databases.

If the journal does not have an open access option and does not allow self-archiving in Europe PMC, this is unlikely to comply with 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. For papers accepted for publication before January 2022, this deposition must happen within six months of publication. For papers accepted for publication on or after 1 January 2022 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 to the public, via the internet, within six months of the official date of final publication in the journal/immediately 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.

With the agreement of the publisher, authors can deposit a copy of the final, peer-reviewed manuscript in Europe PMC through 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 +441223 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.

    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 cost 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.

    Unfortunately, we are not in a position to provide top-up or bridging grants where an institution’s CRUK allocation for the year has been exhausted. In these circumstances, you have the choice of:

    • covering APC costs using underspend on you CRUK response-mode grants or using other funding sources, or

    • selecting a journal that allows the author to self-deposit in Europe PMC within 6 months of publication (for papers accepted before 1 January 2022) or immediately on publication (for papers accepted after 1 January 2022)

    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.

    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.

    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 followed by your Grant Reference number as detailed on your Grant Award Letter. This will be in the format ‘C1234/A5678’ 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.

    While we have become a supporter of Plan S, and are adopting an immediate open access policy that will come into effect from January 2022, we are not becoming a signatory to Plan S at this stage, and will continue to provide funding for open access publishing costs for Cancer Research UK funded articles in hybrid journals. 

    For more information read our supportive statement on Plan S.

    The Charity Open Access Fund (COAF) was a joint funder initiative to support open access costs at a number of UK universities. CRUK was a participant in that fund. The initiative wound up as of 30 September 2020 and CRUK now provides its own open access block grants directly to UK universities. We continue to work with other funders, however, to align our open access requirements as far as possible.

    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 of Library.