A Closer Look at The Wellcome Trust Publisher Requirements: A Q&A with Robert Kiley

January 5, 2017 Natasha White

The Wellcome Trust has recently introduced new publisher requirements for open access. We recently spoke to Robert Kiley from Wellcome about what exactly these new requirements are, and how they will benefit researchers.

Wellcome trust.pngQ. Can you tell us a bit about the new Wellcome Trust publisher requirements for open access, and why you have introduced them?

A. To answer this question we first need to give you some background information. Each year, we ask all institutions who receive Charity Open Access Fund (COAF) funding to provide a report detailing how the funds have been spent. We analyze this data and check that articles for which an APC has been paid are:

  • Final published version freely available through the Europe PMC repository
  • Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY).

A review of this APC data from institutions for the period October 2014 – Sept 2015 revealed that 30% of the articles didn’t comply with our open access policies. We recognize that relationships in the publication process are not straightforward – Wellcome has a grant-funding relationship with a researcher, who then establishes a relationship with a publisher. We also know there has been confusion with the process – for instance with which type of licence a researcher should choose for an article to be fully open access. To address these issues we developed - in consultation with major publishers - the publisher requirements which clearly set out the service we require when Wellcome and COAF funds are used to pay an APC. It’s worth stressing that the core publisher requirements (that the article must be deposited in Europe PMC, made freely available at the time of publication and licensed under a CC-BY licence) have been in place for many years.

We have also used these to introduce a small number of new requirements; asking publishers to:

  • Include article titles on APC invoice information
  • Develop a publicly available refund policy for APC charges.

We have also used the requirements to make explicit a requirement previously implied; ensuring PMC are made aware of post-publication material changes to published articles, such as corrections, retractions and licence changes.

We appreciate that some publishers have been effectively providing these services for many years and may already comply fully with these requirements. However, we want to remove the variation between publishers so that our researchers, institutions and we as the funders get a consistent level of service from the industry.

We hope that some elements of these requirements will be considered good practice by the industry regardless of whether or not they publish research funded by Wellcome and our COAF partners.

Q. There are 3 areas of focus: deposit, license and invoice. What should publishers be doing to make sure they are compliant for each focus area?

A. The full requirements are available here.

For the focus on deposit; publishers need to ensure that they have in place effective mechanisms to deposit the final version of articles (XML and PDF) in PubMedCentral, and that this deposit process should be formalized by the signing of a PMC Participation Agreement. This deposit process must also include any post publication updates, as mentioned above.

For articles published in journals which have not yet been accepted for inclusion in PMC, an exception will be made, provided that the publisher has formally applied for that journal to be included in PMC, and that the article is freely available on the publisher's website with a CC-BY license.

The focus on license centers around our requirement for a CC-BY license when an APC is being paid and ensuring consistency of access and licensing between the various versions of an article (ahead of print, early view etc) and sites it is hosted on. We have numerous examples of the license on an article differing between Europe PMC and the publisher's website. In other instances an article on a publisher’s website has been found behind a paywall despite being published under a CC-BY licence. We want to see an end to these variable practices. We are also requiring that license information is appropriately tagged in the article metadata and is machine readable, so publishers should check their XML.

We realize that choosing the correct license is the responsibility of the authors, and we’ll be renewing our communication with our researchers about our requirement for a CC-BY license. However, we also think publishers have a role to play in reducing the choice that authors have when they know that they are Wellcome funded. We’re pleased to see that this is something that Wiley has implemented.

For the final focus - invoices - publishers need to do two things; first ensure that their APC invoices contain, at a minimum, the title of the article that the invoice is for, to support transparency and traceability in APC transactions. Secondly, to have a publicly available refund policy for APC charges.

Q. What are the benefits to researchers in introducing these open access publication requirements?

A. Although the publisher requirements were not developed specifically for researchers, feedback from authors and their institutions suggests that a significant amount of time and resource is spent resolving the issues relating to non-compliant publications. By asking publishers to publicly agree to the requirements, one of our aims is to reduce the number of issues relating to non-compliance and the time spent resolving these. So we hope that our researchers will see an indirect benefit.

The requirement that PMC must be made aware of any post publication changes to an article is to ensure that this repository (and its mirror sites in Europe and Canada) provides researchers with accurate and up-to-date information. These services support researchers around the globe and thus it would seriously undermine their value (and scientific progress more broadly) if a researcher acted on information provided here which had already been subject to a correction or a retraction elsewhere.

More generally, we want the research we have funded to be openly licensed to ensure that this content can be text and data mined and re-used - to hopefully discover new knowledge. Making research papers available under a CC-BY licence facilitates this.

Q. An analysis of the 2014-15 Charity Open Access Fund (COAF), which includes Wellcome funding, revealed that 30% of Wellcome and COAF member articles for which an APC was paid didn't comply with Wellcome Trust open access policies. Is this an improving situation?

A. We hope so. However, because we only analyse this data on an annual basis it is too early to tell if the situation is improving. We are currently collecting the APC data from institutions reporting on the 2015/16 APC spend and will make this data and our analysis available in the New Year.

We know that some publishers, Wiley included, have put a lot of effort into improving their production pipelines that handle Wellcome and COAF funded articles with the goal of reducing non-compliance. Fingers crossed, we’ll see the impact of this soon.

Wiley’s position

At Wiley we’ve been working hard to make sure that we are compliant with the Wellcome Trust publisher requirements for open access, as outlined by Robert above. We are delighted to say that because of this work we’ve been reporting compliance levels of more than 90% - usually 95% plus – since June. As of this writing, there have been 1070 articles published since January 2015 with COAF/Wellcome funding that are eligible for deposition in PMC. Of these, 94% are fully compliant with the requirements (in PMC with the correct license). We will continue to focus on further improvement rates and on putting the correct measures in place to maintain this positive progress. The 4 main areas Wiley has been working on are as follows:1) obtaining accurate funder identification from the author during his/her publication journey 2) ensuring accurate licensing information based on any funder requirements 3) understanding and following PMC requirements and 4) payment must have been received for open access and the article must have made its way into an issue. We’re confident we can keep improving our workflows until all of this is fully automated.

About the Author

Natasha White

Director, Open Access Marketing // As Associate Marketing Director, Author Engagement, I have responsibility for driving Open Access and Author Engagement Marketing Strategy.

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