Open Access

RHS Submits Response to UKRI Open Access Review

The RHS has made a substantial response to the UKRI Open Access Review, the outcome of which will determine open access policies for the UK Research Councils and inform the requirements for outputs submitted to the REF after REF2021.

Full information about the UKRI consultation is available here:

Download the Royal Historical Society’s full response to the consultation here.


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.


Royal Historical Society Publishes Guidance Paper on “Plan S and History Journals”

The Royal Historical Society (RHS) has today (23 October 2019) published its new Guidance Paper on ‘Plan S and the History Journal Landscape’ .

The report is designed to assist History and broader Humanities & Social Sciences stakeholders to understand and navigate the current policy frontiers of open access publishing for peer reviewed scholarly journals.

In particular, it is timed to contribute to the two public consultations on open access publication mandates, due to be launched shortly by United Kingdom Research & Innovation (UKRI), the funding body that includes the seven UK research councils as well as Research England.  This consultation process reflects UKRI’s membership of cOAlition S, a consortium of international funders established in 2018 which has articulated a new ‘Plan S’ mandate for open access publication.

The RHS report explains what cOAlition S and Plan S are, and why they matter to Humanities and Social Science researchers, journal editors and learned societies—among other stakeholders.  The report uses granular evidence of peer reviewed History journal publication to examine the potential impacts of Plan S implementation by UKRI.  The report is based on a summer 2019 RHS survey that attracted responses from 107 UK and international History learned society and proprietary journals.  Respondents included both self-publishing journals and journals published by 26 different university and commercial presses.  Additionally, the report uses data from the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) to explore open access journal publication in History.

In the context of the forthcoming UKRI consultation, the report offers specific recommendations for:

  • History researchers (including early career historians)
  • journal editors and editorial boards
  • learned societies
  • research organisations
  • funders     

Find out more and download the full report here.


New Historical Perspectives: First Volume Out Now!

The RHS is delighted to announce that today marks the release of the first volume in New Historical Perspectives, an Open Access books series for early career scholars commissioned by the Royal Historical Society and published as an imprint of the Institute of Historical Research by University of London Press.

The first book in the series is Ed Owens’ The Family Firm: Monarchy, Mass Media and the British Public, 1932-53.

The Family Firm presents the first major historical analysis of the transformation of the royal household’s public relations strategy in the period 1932-1953. Beginning with King George V’s first Christmas broadcast, Buckingham Palace worked with the Church of England and the media to initiate a new phase in the House of Windsor’s approach to publicity. The book also focuses on audience reception by exploring how British readers, listeners, and viewers made sense of royalty’s new media image. It argues that the monarchy’s deliberate elevation of a more informal and vulnerable family-centred image strengthened the emotional connections that members of the public forged with the royals, and that the tightening of these bonds had a unifying effect on national life in the unstable years during and either side of the Second World War. Crucially, The Family Firm also contends that the royal household’s media strategy after 1936 helped to restore public confidence in a Crown that was severely shaken by the abdication of King Edward VIII.

Download and buy copies of The Family Firm here.

All titles in New Historical Perspectives are published in print (hard- and paperback) and as Open Access (OA) from first publication, with no fees charged to the author or the author’s institution. Monograph authors receive a workshop with invited specialists to discuss their work before its final submission, and guidance from members of the NHP’s academic editorial board who also oversee a careful peer-review process.

Find out more about the New Historical Perspectives book series, including how to make a proposal, here.


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


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:



Plan S Consultation

The Society has submitted a response to the consultation on the Plan S open-access initiative. Our outline response is available here, and our more detailed full report is available here. These build on our interim report and call for evidence and feedback, issued in January and available here.


Book Processing Charges

Most publishers currently charge fees (“Book Processing Charges”; BPCs) to authors and their institutions for Open Access publication. The Society has issued a document surveying current BPCs from publishers working with UK-based historians: you can find it here.

The Society is engaged in the ongoing debates on Open Access and the future of book publishing. We have recently issued briefings for historians on the UK Scholarly Communications Licence, and the possible implications of Open Access requirements in future REF exercises, and we have also launched our own fee-free Open Access monograph series, New Historical Perspectives.


Information for Historians on Open Access for the next REF

Open Access 4The university funding councils led by HEFCE have recently announced their policy for open access that will apply from 2016 for journal articles that are submitted to the next REF (expected in 2020). This policy will apply to all journal articles – but not to other forms of publication, including chapters in edited volumes or monographs – authored by researchers who are employed by a UK university at the time of publication. It is a more liberal policy than the previously-announced policy of the research councils; it allows a number of important exceptions and exemptions. If you are funded by AHRC or ESRC, you are bound by the more stringent policy: see our Information Sheet for Historians on the RCUK Open Access Policy.  If you are not funded by AHRC or ESRC (or the Wellcome Trust, which funds history of medicine, and has a policy of its own), this information sheet applies to you, if you are employed by a UK university and wish your journal articles to be eligible for submission to the next REF.  Read the full HEFCE policy and some helpful FAQs.


 What do I need to do to ensure that my articles are eligible for the next REF?

1. At the point when your article has been accepted by a journal (i.e. after peer review, and possibly after revisions have been accepted), you should immediately upload the accepted manuscript to your institution’s digital repository. There is a tight three-month window after acceptance within which this deposit must be made.

Upload into the repository does not make your article open access, but it makes it ‘discoverable’ – that is, searches should be able to locate it.  There is no reason not to do this, starting now, even though the policy doesn’t kick in until 2016 – we should all get used to doing so.

If you are not employed by a university at the time your article is accepted, you don’t need to deposit your manuscript anywhere.  But if you are subsequently employed by a university, it would be wise to deposit any manuscripts accepted since 1 January 2014 (which will be eligible for the next REF) once you’ve taken up your new employment.

2. When you upload to the repository, the repository software should ask you under what terms you are able to make it accessible. You’ll need to know answers to the following questions:

i. Does your journal permit open access at all? Your journal will be able to tell you this.  Most UK-based journals do permit open access.  However, some international journals – including very prominent journals, and many published in the U.S. – do not.  The HEFCE policy allows you to publish in these journals if they are ‘the most appropriate’ outlet for your work.  The judgement of what is ‘the most appropriate’ outlet is up to you, the author, and your institution.  Your institution should accept your assurance that you have chosen the most appropriate journal for the work.  If it doesn’t, please let us know (and we may be able to help).

ii. If your journal permits open access, does it stipulate an ‘embargo’ period during which the deposited manuscript must remain closed to open access? Most UK-based journals do stipulate an embargo period.  Much like the ‘moving wall’ policy maintained by JSTOR, this ensures that journals are able to charge moderate and responsible subscription rates to university libraries to cover the costs of publication, which would not be possible if most of the content were freely available immediately.  Most UK-based journals will stipulate an embargo period that complies with HEFCE’s policy of a maximum 24-month (2-year) embargo for articles in humanities journals.  If your journal has an embargo period longer than this maximum, again you are permitted to publish there so long as that journal is ‘the most appropriate’ outlet for your work.

iii. Do all the ‘rights-owners’ to materials you have used in your publication consent to open access?  This applies especially to owners of images, music, literary works and other copyright works who may have given you permission to use their materials in your publication, but only on certain terms.  When you seek permissions, make sure to find out whether they include open access and on precisely what conditions.  Under the terms of this policy, you are exempted from any open-access conditions to which the rights-owners object.

iv. On what terms do you wish to make your work accessible, once it is on open access? This question concerns exactly which rights you wish to surrender to users of your open-access work.  Under this policy, all open-access work must be available for copying and distribution in its original form.  But you have a choice to limit further uses – for example, you can stipulate that users do not alter your work (e.g. mix your work and theirs and re-publish it under both your names, acknowledging that your original work forms part of the new work but without specifying which is which – this is called ‘derivative use’) or that they do not use your work for commercial purposes.  To specify what rights you wish to retain and what rights you wish to surrender, you should be asked which ‘licence’ you wish to issue your work under.  The open-access organization Creative Commons provides a suite of licences from which you can choose (and which many journals offer).  We recommend the CC BY-NC ND licence, which allows free distribution of the original work, but not derivative or commercial uses.  This licence is explicitly permitted by the HEFCE policy (but not the RCUK policy).  Again, you should consult your journal as to which licences they are offering, choose your favoured licence, and tell your repository which you have chosen.

 If your institution does not ask you these questions, they may have chosen ‘default’ answers for you.  You may wish to ask the people who run your institution’s Open Access policy what those default answers are, and vary them accordingly.  You should also check directly with your journal what its policies are – the databases (such as Sherpa/Romeo) which are sometimes used to assess journals’ compliance with Open Access policies are often inaccurate or vague;  go to the horse’s mouth.

3. When the article is published, under the terms of the policy you can leave the accepted manuscript in the repository, and do nothing further. But you may also wish to add the published version, if your journal permits.  Some journals will permit the uploading of the published version at the end of the embargo period, but others won’t;  others may even require it, to ensure that it is the published version that is taken as the version of record.  If the journal does permit this, we consider that it is best practice to replace the accepted manuscript with the published version (which after all is the version of record, and the one you want quoted or cited, and indeed the one you want assessed for the REF).  The HEFCE policy explicitly allows such replacement.

4. ‘Gold’ open access. All of the information given above is based on the assumption that the vast majority of journal articles published by historians will be made open access without the payment of any publication fee (an ‘Article Processing Charge’, APC, or similar).  The HEFCE policy permits but does not require ‘Gold’ open access where a fee is paid for immediate open access.  We consider the practice of ‘pay to publish’ to be wrong in principle, as it gives unfair advantages to funded researchers, and also gives too much discretion to managers who hold publication funds over what and where academics publish.  There is no requirement, under either the HEFCE or the RCUK policy, to ask for or to accept ‘Gold’ publication funds and we recommend you avoid them.

HEFCEOne final point.  The HEFCE policy has a number of ambiguities embedded into it, which may suggest to university managers that – even though all of the policies above are stated explicitly – they ought to go beyond the stated minima;  they might ask their researchers not to publish in ‘the most appropriate’ journal, or to give up more of their rights than necessary.  But the HEFCE policies have been made deliberately permissive in response to objections that the more restrictive RCUK policies will damage academic freedom and quality.  It cannot be right to stipulate these permissive policies and then seek to claw them back by offering managers incentives to ignore them – either they’re necessary for the health of our disciplines or they’re not.  We are seeking clarification from HEFCE.  In the meantime, if you get ‘pushback’ from managers, asking or requiring you to go beyond the terms of this policy in ways that you are not comfortable with, please let us know.


  1. Upload your accepted manuscript as soon as possible to your institution’s repository. If you don’t have an institution, you don’t have to do this.
  1. Find out what your journal’s Open Access policy is; know what choices you have and make those choices clear to your institution;  if your journal isn’t compliant with the HEFCE policy, make a case that it is still the most appropriate publication for your article.
  1. If and when possible, replace the deposited manuscript with the published version.
  1. There is no need for your institution (or anyone else) to pay for you to publish: ‘Green’ is generally preferable to ‘Gold’, and should be widely available.
  1. If you need further advice, ask us:

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