Five years ago, the UK funding body Research England, then known as the Higher Education Funding Council for England, announced an ambitious policy designed to speed up the transition to open-access publishing. To become eligible for a slice of billions of pounds of government money distributed to UK universities, academics would have to post their research on free-to-access websites such as preprint servers and institutional repositories within three months of acceptance by a journal. Though the policy took effect in 2016, it has been difficult to judge its efficacy.

Now an analysis shows that researchers in the UK are indeed posting their papers online earlier, as are their colleagues all over the world. The time researchers are taking to post papers online shrunk by an average of 472 days per country between 2013 and 2017, finds a study published on 17 April and to be presented at the ACM/IEEE Joint Conference on Digital Libraries in June. Though the authors can’t definitively say what’s behind the trend, they suggest that the Research England policy and other funding eligibility requirements recently announced worldwide are pushing academics to rapidly make their work freely available.

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