Nature publishing contract for UK scientists

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Academics supported by UK Research Council grants will not be prevented from publishing in Nature after a last-minute deal was struck to allow them to publish open access in the prestigious title.

From this month, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) will only allow its funding to pay for open access publication of titles that meet its definition of a ‘transformative journal’. While Nature the owner Springer Nature has committed to making the majority of its prints open access, Nature and several other titles did not meet the UKRI definition of transformative journals and were excluded from a Jisc-approved list of journals.

After months of uncertainty as to whether Nature would be banned for thousands of UK researchers, the situation was finally resolved after a temporary agreement was announced on the day UKRI’s new open access policy came into effect.

In a statement sent to universities on April 1, Nick Campbell, vice president (academic affairs) at Nature Portfolio and Springer Nature, said he wanted to make it “clear that open access publishing in any Nature magazine complies with the new UKRI OA policy”.

“The policy applies to submissions from today and the interim measure we have agreed with Jisc means that any relevant papers your researchers publish in these journals can use UKRI OA funds to pay APC. [article processing charge].”

Nature announced that it would charge authors £8,290 (€9,500 or $11,390) to make their work free to read.

Dr Campbell added that the temporary agreement will last for the remainder of 2022 and that Springer Nature expects “a transformative agreement with Jisc to be in place from January 2023 which will replace the interim measure we have agreed”.

The short-term agreement should draw attention to the extent to which Springer Nature might be willing to reduce its Nature APC in any future agreement or whether UK researchers are prepared to agree not to publish in Nature – one of the most cited and prestigious scientific titles in the world.

David Price, vice-rector (research) at UCL, said he was “not worried at all” that UK researchers were not featured in Nature. “Publish in Nature is an ego trip for a lot of researchers – I myself have published before but it is a very idiosyncratic journal and publishing there is no guarantee of quality,” he added.

The flow Nature APC is “unforgivable”, continued Professor Price, who said he believed Springer Nature would “fall into line” on the issue of open access costs.

In a statement, Springer Nature said it “shares UKRI’s and Jisc’s goals of enabling a full transition to immediate AO for primary research.”

“The absence of a formally agreed funding mechanism” for Nature and other titles had been “of concern to potential authors and so, in recognition of our desire to put in place a transformative agreement with UK institutions, Springer Nature will ensure a compliant publication pathway for UKRI-funded corresponding authors submitting these titles from April 1 to December 31, 2022, allowing us to register them as Jisc-approved transformative journals,” he added.

“As a result, these authors will be able to publish in accordance with UKRI policy and may even use available funds if they wish to make the final published version immediately available.”

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