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Open Access policy review

The NIHR has reviewed its Open Access policy for peer-reviewed research articles to make sure it is fit for the future across the breadth of NIHR’s portfolio and its broad stakeholder community. This review has now concluded and you can find the revised Open Access publication policy here. The revised policy applies to peer-reviewed research articles describing NIHR funded research findings submitted for publication on or after 1 June 2022 - and supersedes the NIHR Open Access policy introduced in 2014.

Following the announcement of the revised Open Access policy, the NIHR has worked with stakeholders to develop guidance and supporting tools, including policy guidance for more information on how to comply with the policy, and Open Access funding guidance for information on the terms and processes for accessing Open Access funding. We are working with the NIHR stakeholder community during the policy implementation phase and we can be reached directly via

Recognising the importance of all publicly funded research being made immediately Open Access, the revised policy increases the scope of peer reviewed research articles that must be published immediately Open Access. Where relevant and appropriate, additional funding can be requested for active contracts that budgeted based on the previous Open Access policy scope. For more information see the Open Access funding guidance . We are also exploring opportunities, by working with Jisc, for the NIHR-funded research community to access publishing transitional arrangements which support a sustainable transition to Open Access for the sector.

We recognise that Open Access to peer-reviewed research articles is only part of the solution to full accessibility to research findings for all and that there are various dissemination routes, with publishing peer-reviewed research articles being just one of these. We support a diversity of dissemination approaches to ensure that NIHR-funded research is widely accessible to a diversity of audiences to achieve maximal societal, academic and economic impact. You can find plain English summaries of our latest research at NIHR Evidence and the NIHR Journals Library. Alongside publishing our new open access policy, we have also published a statement on our commitment to assessing research on its own merits - the NIHR’s position on the responsible use of metrics.

Review background

Open Access makes published academic research freely, immediately and permanently available online for anyone to read and reuse. This in turn maximises the academic, societal and economic impact of research, and enhances the integrity and rigour of research through greater openness and transparency. The Government’s recent Research and Development Roadmap has reiterated its commitment to Open Access:

“We will require that research outputs funded by the UK government are freely available to the taxpayer who funds research. Such open publication will also ensure that UK research is cited and built on all over the world.”

NIHR has been reviewing its Open Access policy for peer reviewed publications to make sure it is fit for the future across the breadth of NIHR’s portfolio and its broad stakeholder community. The review included extensive engagement with stakeholders through an open survey, meetings, workshops and roundtables. The NIHR has also been working closely with other Government and charitable funders of research throughout the Open Access review - recognising the importance of cross-funder policy alignment for the research ecosystem. 

NIHR Open Access policy change rationale

The NIHR Open Access policy is based on four principles:

  • Principle 1 - Articles must be immediately, freely and openly accessible to all
  • Principle 2 - There should be no barriers to the re-use and dissemination of NIHR funded articles
  • Principle 3 - Articles must be freely discoverable
  • Principle 4 - NIHR will pay reasonable fees to enable immediate open access

The below sets out the key changes we have made to the NIHR open access policy to better support these principles based on the Review evidence.


Policy evidence

The revised NIHR open access policy is underpinned by existing evidence base and evidence gathered throughout the review. The following reports were developed or commissioned to inform and support the policy review.

Stakeholder survey findings report

In Autumn 2020, we consulted on opportunities and barriers of open access, strengths and weaknesses of the current NIHR Open Access policy and gathered specific feedback on proposed policy options. Thank you to everyone who responded to the survey. We received more than 400 responses from a wide range of stakeholder groups. Read the survey findings report: NIHR Open Access Policy Review Stakeholder Survey Results.

Health and care sector subscription and publishing report

In collaboration with Health Education England (HEE), we commissioned a report by Information Power about publishing and publication procurement practices across the health and social care system and hosted a roundtable discussion for health and social care organisations. Read the report: Recommendations about publishing and publication procurement practices

Economic Analysis Report

We commissioned York Health Economics Consortium (YHEC) to undertake an economic impact analysis of NIHR’s open access policy options. Read the report: Analysis of the economic impact of NIHR’s Open Access policy (.PDF).

Public contributor report

NIHR seeks to ensure that the public are at the centre of health and care research culture and systems. We recognise that public voices have not always been central to debates about open access publishing in health and care research, despite strong public interest in access to research findings - as funders, advocates, research contributors and participants, evidence users and beneficiaries. To address this, in October 2020 we held virtual workshops for public contributors to tell us what they think. The workshops explored how the public, patients, carers and service users feel about research being made openly available immediately. We would like to thank all the public contributors who participated in these workshops for their valuable contributions. Read the report Knowledge is Power: Public perspectives on Open Access publishing. We have also published a report setting out how public feedback informed the development of the revised NIHR Open Access Policy.

Report on Open Access in Low- and Middle-Income Countries

NIHR has a significant portfolio of Global Health Research which supports high-quality applied health research for the direct and primary benefit of people in low and middle-income countries (LMICs), using Official Development Assistance (ODA) funding. To address specific open access opportunities and challenges for this community, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, in collaboration with ourselves and UKRI, commissioned an independent consultation to explore the impact of open access on ODA funding and stakeholders in LMICs. Read the report: Open Access: challenges and opportunities for Low- and MiddleIncome Countries and the potential impact of UK policy (.PDF).