Launch of the Charity Open Access Fund (COAF)

Today, six of our member charities have launched a fund that will help scientists and researchers make the results of their research more freely available.

Arthritis Research UK, Breast Cancer Campaign, the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research, and the Wellcome Trust have joined together, with help from AMRC, to put more than £12 million into a joint pot called the Charity Open Access Fund (COAF).
The fund, which will be available from 1 October this year, is a two year pilot. It will provide funding to meet the costs of publishing research results in “open access” journals so they are available to all.
AMRC and its members believe that making research available in this way helps to accelerate progress in medical research and maximise the benefit to patients.

Why is open access important?

Traditionally, scientists and researchers have published their research results in academic journals. To cover the cost of reviewing and publishing the research findings, many journals require a subscription to access them. This means that other researchers and members of the public have to pay to see the articles.
However, publishers will often make the research free to access for an up-front fee, known as an article processing charge (APC). The COAF will allow researchers to pay this fee so that others can examine and build on their findings. It also means that supporters can more easily access the results of the research they have helped to fund!
Having one fund for multiple charities also reduces the administrative burden of processing applications for open access costs, which means that more of their supporters’ donations can be spent on life-saving research.

Who can receive this funding?

In the first year of the pilot the fund is open to researchers funded by any of the six partner charities who are based at one of 36 universities. After the first year other charities will be able to join and contribute to the fund, which would mean their researchers would also be able to apply for this funding.

What is AMRC’s position on open access?

AMRC members want the research they fund to have the greatest possible impact and we believe that making it freely available in this way helps to achieve this. AMRC has worked closely with the COAF partners to help them set up the fund. Over the next year we will look at how we can support more of our members to join the fund after the completion of the first year of the pilot.
The launch of COAF coincides with the publication of AMRC’s new position statement on open access. The statement acknowledges that our members support open access in a number of ways and gives examples of the different ways in which they do this.
AMRC also wants to see all parties - charities, publishers and universities - working together to make sure that open access business models are more transparent, the costs of journal subscriptions are reduced and these savings are made available to support open access further.

What happens next?

It is important to remember that COAF is a pilot and at this stage it’s not available to all medical researchers funded by charities. The fund is by no means a silver bullet to the problem of publicly funded research being hidden behind journal “pay-walls”. However, the launch of the COAF is an important first step on the road to making the results of medical research both more quickly and more widely available.
Ultimately, we believe this will lead to greater understanding of the diseases and conditions that our members are fighting and will also result in better outcomes for those people affected, through improvements in diagnosis and treatment.

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