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Shift open access policy, research councils urged

Senior academic Stephen Curry has called on Research Councils UK to adopt the same policy on open access as the Wellcome Trust.

In an open letter on 21 February, Curry, professor of structural biology at Imperial College London, says the councils should adopt the trust’s policy of requiring research to be published in open access repositories, such as PubMed, and paying for it once a grant has finished.

“In my view [the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council’s guidance does not have] the drive or focus of the Wellcome Trust’s policy,” says Curry. “The aim is to ‘encourage’, rather than oblige. The financial support on offer is more limited and more difficult to access.”

According to Curry, research council rules mean charges for open access publishing should be put down as direct costs and predicted within the grant, or paid for as overheads by the university—policies that he says don’t work.

Curry has become a vocal supporter of the growing campaign for open access publishing after going public with his refusal to review papers in a paid-for journal for Anglo-Dutch publisher Elsevier last month.

The movement includes a petition signed by almost 7,000 researchers, started by Tim Gowers, Fields medallist and professor of mathematics at the University of Cambridge. The ‘The Cost of Knowledge’ petition asks researchers to boycott Elsevier, in protest at its prices and support of the US Research Works Act.

The bill, passing through the US Congress, seeks to reverse legislation that requires grantees of some government funders to make their research papers freely available in open-access repositories within a year of publication.