RHS Responds to REF2021 Revised Timetable Consultation

In April 2021, in response to COVID-19, REF 2021 invited views from the HE sector on two central issues for the revised exercise: the timing of the new submission deadline; and the broad approach to taking account of effects on impact case studies.

For further information see:

Following discussion in Council (Friday 1 May 2020), the Royal Historical Society submitted a response to the two questions posed.

Download the response.


RHS Response to Plan S Transformative Journals consultation

The RHS has responded to the cOAlition S consultation on their draft framework for transformative journals criteria in Plan S. We were grateful to have the opportunity to contribute to the development of the framework through this process, full details of which are available here. The survey closes at 09.00 CET on Monday 6th January 2020.

The consultation offered three opportunities for comment on elements of the framework. The RHS responses to these are reproduced below in full.

Colleagues and stakeholders may also be interested in the following:


RHS Response to Plan S Transformative Journals consultation

Q.1 The draft framework specifies that a Transformative Journal must demonstrate an annual increase in the OA penetration rate of at least eight percentage points year-on-year, measured on a three year rolling period. If you disagree that this is fair and reasonable, then please specify what target you would support, and why. [2000 character limit]

The RHS does not support imposing arbitrary, unachievable targets for yearly increases in OA, and we see little or no prospect of History journals “flipping” to full OA. For the vast majority of History (and wider Humanities) journals submission numbers are not at a scale to make such calculations possible. Nor does this proposal offer Humanities journals a financially viable pathway to sustainable publication. For evidence and figures for history publishing, see our Feb 2019 response (Part 4) to the Plan S consultation:

Requiring journals to increase OA content by a fixed % p.a. will subvert the vital role of rigorous independent peer review by forcing editors to make decisions about publication based on authors’ ability to pay for OA, rather than the work’s quality. We note SpringerNature’s response to this consultation also makes this point.

If subject to inflexible targets, authors in receipt of Plan S funds may be sorely disadvantaged if the most appropriate journals for them to publish in are made “non-compliant” by stringent universal criteria.  Existing Plan S requirements for OA journals already mean the great majority of History journals in DOAJ are not Plan S compliant. More fundamentally, by mandating author compliance regimes without first developing viable, long-term financial models for the ‘transformative’ Humanities journals in which they are expected to publish, this proposal undercuts Humanities researchers’ ability to publish in peer-reviewed outlets.

The RHS keenly supports fair, equitable open access in principle and practice, and welcomes transparency in any transition. But reducing OA goals to percentage “penetrations” (itself an inept choice of phrasing) risks further distancing Plan S from the ethical and moral impetus of the OA movement more broadly, and from engagement with the richness and diversity of potential approaches that characterise global OA initiatives.


Q.2 In addition to the 8% increase on OA penetration, year-on-year, the publishers of Transformative Journals must agree to either flip them to OA either when 50% of the content is OA, or by 31st December 2024. To what extent do you agree that these are fair and achievable? If you disagree with this, please specify what target (percentage of OA, or date) you would support, and why. [2000 character limit]

The calculations presented here are both inappropriate and very difficult to apply in an Arts&Hums context where journal submissions are comparatively few & fewer than 20% of authors can access APC funds.

Research carried out by the RHS indicates that Plan S signatories fund a maximum of 17% of articles in UK History (& wider humanities) journals, making any target unrealistic. (see RHS February 2019 Response, p.43 at From a base of 15% OA it would take 16 years at 8% increase to reach the 50% threshold that the coalition deem a realistic point to “flip”. History journals would need to grow OA at a rate of 36% p.a. to meet the 50% threshold by December 2024. Even at 8% growth, less than a quarter of articles are likely to enjoy access to the funds required for open access by Dec 2024.

There is little evidence currently available that more funding – particularly for arts and humanities subjects – is going to become available and cOAlition S Funder “support” is unspecified in the Plan S Principles and Implementation guidelines. There is a dearth of examples of H&SS journals operating at scale, over the long-term, without a subscription base or paywall AND without significant and ongoing institutional support from research organisations or external grant funding.

The best journals attract global authors from a wide and international range of institutions and institution-types. They do not function in closed national, regional or local systems. By rejecting hybrid as a viable, sustainable (and popular) medium to long-term means of fostering OA and setting the bar so high, this plan is likely to stifle innovation by alienating publishers (with the effect that Plan S funded researchers may be locked out of the best journals) and paradoxically drive researchers back toward subscription journals that allow submission of AAM.


If you have any further comments on the proposed framework for Transformative Journals, please add them here. [2000 character limit]

We thank cOAlition S for the chance to respond to this framework, but remain unconvinced of the evidence-base, or rationale behind these targets. The Sept 2019 Information Power report valuably seeks to establish evidence-based arguments, but its “transformative agreement toolkit” takes a very small sample across all research areas (from H&SS to STEMM), contains internally inconsistent arguments and dodges key issues around funding for sustainable H&SS OA journals. Of the 7 models in the IP report, only 3 seem designed to produce full, permanent OA journals, and 4 do not appear to be ‘transformative’ as defined by cOAlition S. Effectively, in this scenario the APC model remains the only viable means of funding transformative journals, yet in Humanities less than 20% of researchers have access to cOAlition S funding for APC payment.  This deficit is especially acute for ECRs.

This proposal again shows no evidence of considering potential implications for Equality, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI), or researchers (e.g. ECRs) who don’t meet waiver criteria. UK-based cOAlition S Funders have specific duties of care and legal obligations with respect to researchers’ rights to equal opportunities. The absence of any reference to EDI as defined by European legislation or UK Equality Act 2010 is a striking feature of the Plan S Principles, broader cOAlition S policy statements, and this plan.

In OA policy discussions, the term ‘transformative agreements’ describes 2 distinct types of OA contracts, which may or may not comply with Plan S. The first are contracts designed to reduce specified research organisations’ annual journal subscription costs while enhancing OA. The second are agreements by journals for a permanent transition to fully and immediately open-access peer-reviewed articles. We urge clarity and consistency from cOAlition S about their definitions, and to consider possible consequences for researchers, disciplines and wider academic publishing ecosystem.


Interim Working Paper – History Journals and Plan S

On 29 July the RHS released an Interim Working Paper offering a preliminary mapping of current preparedness for Plan S open access implementation among UK and international ‘hybrid’ History journals.

Aimed primarily at scholarly editors and editorial boards, History learned societies, publishers of Humanities journals, and funding bodies, this working paper is based on a preliminary analysis of survey responses provided by 50 UK and international History journals.

Since then, we have continued to elicit further evidence, feedback and corrections. With more than a hundred responses to our survey now in, we intend to publish a more comprehensive analysis in early October.

A key aim of the report will be to inform contributions to the forthcoming UKRI Open Access Review.

If you are an editor of a History journal, based anywhere in the world, and have not yet completed the survey, please download the RHS Survey of Journal Editors (July 2019) and return it to by 10 September 2019.

Please download the Interim Working Paper, and send any feedback or corrections to


New Funding to support BME Histories

The Social History Society, Economic History Society and History UK have launched a new funding scheme to support Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) history.

The BME Events and Activities Small Grants Scheme will provide grants of up to £750 to support activities and events run by BME historians or on subjects relating to BME history. An initial call for applications for funding is now open until 1 September 2019. The new funding addresses issues detailed in the Royal Historical Society’s report on Race, Ethnicity and Equality in UK History (2018) which drew attention to under-representation, structural inequalities and racism in the UK higher education system.

Full details of the BME funding scheme are available here:

A panel of experts, comprised of Professor Catherine Hall (University College London), Dr Meleisa Ono-George (University of Warwick) and Dr Jonathan Saha (University of Leeds), will assess the applications.

Professor Margot Finn, RHS President commented:

The announcement of this new tranche of dedicated funding for black and minority ethnic (BME) histories and historians is especially timely.  The past several months have seen a wide range of historians engage with the structural and intellectual problems associated with BME under-representation in History in the UK.  This positive development has increased the demand for funding to support BME historians whose expertise is vital to informed discussions on equality, diversity and inclusion in our discipline, and (more broadly) for new sources of funding to support workshops and other events that challenge conventional assumptions and practices. We hope that organisers of such events will also make good use of the funding available from the Royal Historical Society.




RHS Working Paper – History Researchers and Plan S (Journal) Compliance (April 2019)

Wellcome Trust, Medical History/Humanities & Plan S: RHS Interim Working Paper

This RHS working paper explores Plan S developments primarily from the perspective of Wellcome-funded Humanities researchers (for whom the policy applies to new research article submissions from 1 January 2020).  The paper formed part of a wider discussion with Robert Kiley and Simon Chaplin of the Trust on 9 April 2019.  A representative from Wellcome will offer a response in late May, at which time a further clarification of Plan S implementation guidance is expected.  We’ll post the Wellcome response when it is in hand and hope that these texts will help Wellcome-funded historians as well as History journals and learned societies navigate the new Plan S requirements.

The Working Paper can be downloaded here.

A meeting of UK History editors and learned society representatives is being held at the Institute for Historical Research on 26 April 2019, to discuss the potential implications of Plan S and the best ways of responding to this new development.  We (RHS) will aim to report back on the this meeting if information that might be useful for History researchers emerges from its discussions.  However, given that additional guidance on Plan S is expected in late May, we would expect that to be the most likely point at which greater clarification is available.

In the meantime, for Wellcome Trust-funded historians planning research article submissions from 1 January 2020, at the moment (and NB this is a rapidly moving frontier) the most likely route to Plan S compliance in the short-term looks to be self-deposit of the Author Accepted Manuscript (AAM) in PubMed Central (PMC) and Europe PMC with a CC BY licence and zero-embargo.  You will find this pathway described in:

To determine whether the Wellcome Trust will cover APC charges for your preferred publication from 1 January 2020, see their updated open access guidance.

The Royal Historical Society does not at present have a full list of History journals with a zero embargo policy for AAMs, but examples of publisher open access policies include:

  • Cambridge Journals Open Access policy.
  • Oxford Journals policy on complying with funder OA requirements.
  • Taylor and Francis/Routledge Open Access options finder by journal.
  • Wiley policy on self-archiving.
  • Elsevier policy for self-archiving.

We welcome feedback on this document. Please contact Dr Katherine Foxhall, RHS Research and Communications Manager by email:



Updated Guidance on Submissions and Panel Working Criteria for REF2021

Professor Dinah Birch (Department of English, University of Liverpool), Chair of REF2021 Main Panel D, recently presented a set of slides summarising the main changes and clarifications within the REF guidelines following the consultation.  We are pleased to share those slides, and provide context relevant to historians on our blog here.


REF2014 History Sub-panel Report

In advance of the REF2021 process, the Royal Historical Society wishes to highlight the REF2014 History Sub-panel report to historians and departments. The report can be viewed and downloaded here.


REF2021 Draft Guidance & Criteria Consultation

Via REF2021:

“The UK’s four higher education funding bodies have published the draft guidance and criteria on making submissions to the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021, for consultation.

The four bodies – the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, the Scottish Funding Council, the Department for the Economy, NI, and Research England – are seeking views from subject communities on the draft Panel criteria publication developed by the REF expert panels.

They are also calling for responses on key aspects of the Guidance on submissions publication, which they have developed with advice from the expert panels, including the equality and diversity, and interdisciplinary research advisory panels.

Consultation responses are invited from any higher education institution, association, organisation or individual with an interest in the conduct, quality, funding or use of research. Consultation responses should be submitted online at by 12 noon on 15 October 2018. Further information about the REF is available at”