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 is available on Europe PubMed Central (Europe PMC) as soon as possible and no later than 6 months after publication.

  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. The journal you publish in must be published by a publisher who has agreed to the COAF/Wellcome Trust publisher requirements. Most publishers have agreed to these – for details, download our full Open Access Policy or check the list here.

Article processing charges

We provide designated funds to support the payment of article processing charges (APCs). We are working in partnership with a number of medical research charities to do this, by forming the Charity Open Access Fund (COAF).

This fund will enable a greater number of our supported publications to be made immediately available to the public at the point of publication This fund will be available to a number of UK institutions. Authors should apply to their host institutions to access this fund. Researchers that receive funding from us but are not based at an institution which receives support from the COAF may use any unspent grants to pay for APCs. Alternatively, authors can comply with our policy by self-archiving their publication in Europe PMC within 6 months, if the publisher permits.

Frequently asked questions

An open access publication is one that can be viewed by anyone and reused for any reasonable purpose, subject to proper attribution of authorship. A complete version of the publication is deposited in a standard electronic format in a suitable online repository, at the point of publication.

A standard definition, the Bethesda Statement, was agreed by delegates at a meeting on open access publishing convened by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in July 2003. 

There is mounting evidence that open access articles receive more citations, page views and downloads than their pay-walled counterparts: they can be read without restriction by anyone who has internet access, thus are given wider dissemination.

Open access makes it easier for the scientific community to re-test and corroborate research findings. It also allows for the data to be analysed in new ways and alongside other data sets; this maximises the use of the data and can lead to new discoveries.

Furthermore, grantees will be able to access more relevant research, rather than only research which is available through their institution’s subscriptions. 

PubMed Central (PMC) is an online archive of biomedical and life sciences literature; access is free and unrestricted. Europe PMC is a European repository, funded by a number of European biomedical research funders including Cancer Research UK. Both repositories contain journal articles as well as supplementary information such as clinical guidelines, biological patents and funding information. Not all articles on PMC and Europe PMC are open access: some can be deposited as “dark deposits” and are listed in search results, but are only accessible in full after an embargo period agreed by the author and publisher. This increases the visibility of research and facilitates easy searching.

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, editorials, commentary
  • Book chapters
  • Monographs 

From 1 October 2014, CRUK grantees at 36 institutions will be able to access additional funding to support the payment of article processing charges, to be used when a publisher has a paid open access option available. We have come together with five other charities to create this fund to make it easier for you to comply with our open access policy. 

These grants will be administered by the Wellcome Trust. To access the funds, please contact your institution directly. To check who the appropriate institutional contact is, please contact the Wellcome Trust at openacess@wellcome.ac.uk

If your research has taken place at a CRUK funded institute, and has been solely funded by CRUK then you may not access this fund, even if you have a joint appointment.

If your research has taken place at a CRUK core funded institute but has in whole or in part been funded by The Wellcome Trust, LLR, BHR, ARUK or BCC and you have a joint appointment with a university, then you may apply to your university for access to the fund.

Publications resulting from research funded by CRUK and conducted at our five core funded institutes are not eligible for this fund and you should source funding from within your Institute.

CRUK-funded authors in research institutions that are not on the list of 36 institutions have several options available to comply with the open access policy:

  • Use any available grant under-spend to pay for the APCs
  • Publish in an open access journal that charges low or no fees
  • Choose to publish in a journal that allows submission of the author manuscripts to Europe PMC within six months of publication, and then submit that manuscript to Europe PMC
  • Choose to publish in a journal that makes all content openly available within six months of publication

Yes – as long as the above conditions are met, the COAF may be used to cover article processing charges. 

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 the Wellcome Trust and RCUK policies. 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. We will be monitoring compliance over the COAF’s two-year pilot. At this stage we are not implementing sanctions for non-compliant publications, but after the pilot we will reconsider this position. 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 into the post-2014 REF, research must be made open access.

  1. Check that this policy applies to the type of paper you plan to publish.
  2. Check that their journal of choice has a publishing policy compliant with our policy.

Authors can comply with the open access policies of the partner funders by self-archiving a final author manuscript version of your paper in Europe PMC, as long as it is freely available no longer than six months of the date of publication. When an author self-archives, no APC is charged.

The SHERPA-FACT database can be used to check whether journals are compliant with the policy.

Please also ensure that Cancer Research UK funding, including the grant reference number, is acknowledged on the paper.

If the journal does not have an open access option and does not allow self-archiving in Europe PMC within six months of publication, this is unlikely to comply with conditions of your grant. Though the vast majority of journals do have compliant policies, some do not; most 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 deposition must happen within six months of 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”
  2. Reconsider where to publish. This should hopefully be an exceptional circumstance, since the vast majority of journals will be compliant with this policy. For a list of compliant journals, please see this spreadsheet published by the Wellcome Trust. 

Where no other open access option is available, with the agreement of the publisher, authors can deposit a copy of the final, peer-reviewed manuscript in Europe PMC through Europe PMC plus. An embargo period of up to six months can be agreed if necessary. The copy submitted should be the author’s own accepted version, not the publisher’s PDF.

Manuscripts may be submitted by the author, or by anyone given access to the author’s files – for example administrative personnel, graduate student 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 British Library helpdesk on 01937 546669 or by email on 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 the COAF block grant 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 the COAF; funds held in a pre-payment account but not yet used to publish a funded research paper cannot be claimed for.

Evaluation of the COAF’s pilot period will inform this policy and we will be monitoring how the area progresses.

Unfortunately, we are not in a position to provide top-up or bridging grants where an institution’s COAF 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.

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 [C ref./A ref.]’) and, for trial results, the CRUK trial number;

  • check with their university research office whether there are any other pre-publication notification requirements (eg. 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.

Plan S is an Open Access publishing initiative that requires research funded by its members to be published immediately open access in compliant journals or platforms. Find out more about Plan S here

We are encouraged by the updated Plan S implementation guidance and acknowledge the efforts of cOAlition S to try to address some of the concerns raised in CRUK’s consultation response. In particular, we welcome the delay of the Plan S implementation to January 2021 to allow more time for publishers, funders and researchers to work collaboratively to find solutions and develop compliant publishing routes. We will be watching developments in the publishing landscape over the next 12 months with interest.

We will be making a decision on whether to adopt Plan S ourselves in summer 2020. Our decision will be informed by ongoing discussions with researchers at all levels in the CRUK community.

Contact us

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

For further information on the COAF, for grantees and institutions, please visit the Wellcome Trust’s website.

For guidance about how to access the fund, please contact your host institution. If you are unsure who is the appropriate contact, or for any other queries relating to the COAF, please contact the Wellcome Trust at openacess@wellcome.ac.uk