Charity alliance launches fund to make charitably funded research open access

An alliance of leading UK medical research charities is today launching a new fund to help make charitably funded research freely available as soon as it is published.

Arthritis Research UK, Breast Cancer Campaign, the British Heart Foundation (BHF), Cancer Research UK, Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research, and the Wellcome Trust have joined together to create the Charity Open Access Fund (COAF).

Many journals require a subscription for users to be able to see their research articles, so research that has been funded by charities - often by donations from the public - can be hidden behind a paywall. But many publishers will make the research immediately free to access and re-use if a fee - called the ‘article processing charge’ - is paid.

This ‘open access’ model allows knowledge to be shared faster and promotes innovation, accelerating progress that can lead to patients accessing better treatments sooner.

COAF is a two-year pilot and will collect around £12 million into a single pot of money, available to researchers who are funded by any of the charities and based at any of 36 universities and research institutes covered by the scheme. From 1 October this year, researchers can apply through their universities to access the fund, which will pay the article processing charge to make their work freely available as soon as it is published.

Commenting on the initiative, Greg Clark, Minister of Universities, Science and Cities, said: “Opening up access to the latest medical research will bring real benefits to researchers, patients and society. The Government is committed to ensure the widest possible access to research to develop new treatments quicker and today’s announcements by the UK’s leading medical charities will help to achieve this.”

The six partners are members of the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC), which played a key role in the establishment of the partnership. AMRC Chair, Lord Willis of Knaresborough, said: "The Charity Open Access Fund is a fantastic example of medical charities working together to ensure their research has maximum impact. We are confident that this pilot is the first step on a journey to a system where research findings are more freely available. We hope the COAF will lead to even more exciting breakthroughs in the understanding, treatment and diagnosis of disease."

Robert Kiley, Head of Digital Services at the Wellcome Trust, said: “We are delighted that other charities are making funds available to ensure that the outputs of their research funding are made freely available and fully re-usable at the time of publication. This approach helps to ensure that this knowledge can be built upon and used in a manner that maximises health and public benefit.”

Dr Stephen Simpson, Director of Research at Arthritis Research UK, said: “We’re committed to finding cures for the millions of people living with the pain of arthritis. Research is all about outcomes and practical benefits for patients, so it’s vitally important that published research has the greatest possible access and availability to all. That’s why we’re very happy to be a supporting partner in this exciting new initiative.”

Dr Matt Kaiser, Head of Research at Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research, said: “We want our investments in cutting-edge blood cancer research to work as hard for patients as possible. Open access allows research to be more widely read by scientists, doctors and policy makers, and we have a duty to our supporters who fund the work to make the end results freely available. By breaking down barriers to the access and use of our and others’ research results, we will as a broad community be better equipped to inspire new treatments and better care for these serious diseases.”

Notes for editors

Researchers must be based at one of the 36 institutes involved in the scheme, and the journal they submit to must be compliant with the COAF terms and conditions. The fund will take the form of a block grant to each institution, which will be administered by the Wellcome Trust.