Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Thursday, January 04, 2007

ERC pledges to adopt an OA mandate

The Scientific Council of the European Research Council has issued a Statement on Open Access (December 2006).  Here it is in its entirety:

1. The ERC Scientific Council stresses the fundamental importance of peer-reviewed journals in ensuring the certification and dissemination of high-quality scientific research and in guiding appropriate allocation of research funds. Policies towards access to scientific research must guarantee the ability of the system to continue to deliver high-quality certification services.

2. While the certification quality of the scientific publication system is not in doubt, the high prices of some journals – which do not seem to be chiefly driven by cost considerations – raise significant worries concerning the ability of the system to deliver wide access and therefore efficient dissemination of research results, with the resulting risk of stifling further scientific progress.

3. These considerations lead the ERC Scientific Council, like other research funding bodies, to stress the attractiveness of policies mandating the public availability of research results – in open access repositories – reasonably soon (ideally, 6 months, and in any case no later than 12 months) after publication.

4. Of course, general open-access policies are not trivial to implement because: (i) the speed of ‘obsolescence’ of knowledge varies across disciplines; and (ii) so does the availability of open access repositories. Moreover, coordination between research funders (at EU level, across parts of the Framework Programme for example, but also at the level of Member States and their regions) is highly desirable.

5. This being said, it is the firm intention of the ERC Scientific Council to issue specific guidelines for the mandatory deposit in open access repositories of research results – that is, publications, data and primary materials – obtained thanks to ERC grants, as soon as pertinent repositories become operational.

6. The ERC Scientific Council moreover hopes that research funders across Europe will join forces in establishing common open-access rules and in building European open access repositories that will help make these rules operational. To facilitate this process for EUfunded research, it recommends that the European Commission sets up a task force including representatives from the various FP7 programmes (Cooperation, Ideas, People, …) to develop an operational FP7 policy on open access by the end of 2007 (which takes in particular into account disciplinary differences and technological constraints).


  1. This isn't a policy but it's a public commitment to adopt a policy when the infrastructure is ready ("as soon as pertinent repositories become operational").  Moreover, it's a commitment to adopt the right policy:  an OA mandate for ERC-funded research --including data.  Kudos to the ERC for taking this step.  
  2. The ERC is new and still getting off the ground.  For example, it still has no web site of its own.  (As soon as it does, I'll blog it.)  However, we know that it will fund about €1 billion worth of research every year and will have some influence with national funding agencies throughout Europe.
  3. The fact that the ERC is waiting for OA repositories to become operational suggests that it will rely on distributed repositories, not a central ERC-hosted repository.  On the one hand, that's the better policy.  But on the other, delaying the policy may be worse than relying on a central repository to supplement the existing distributed repositories.  There is already a wide distribution of OA repositories throughout Europe.  The distribution is admittedly uneven and many institutions still have to launch their own.  But that could happen quickly, especially with ERC's prodding or assistance.  In any case the ERC could work toward that state without delaying its policy.  It could mandate deposit in the author's institutional repository, when one exists, or in a new ERC-hosted repository otherwise.  As new institutional repositories spread, the ERC repository would take fewer direct deposits but continue to harvest content from the network of institutional repositories.
  4. It's possible that I'm all wrong in point 3 and that ERC is only waiting to set up its own repositories.  I'll try to find out.