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Friday, June 27, 2008

EuroHORCs recommends OA mandates as a minimum

EuroHORCs (European Heads of Research Councils) has announced a set of Recommendations on Open Access.  The document is dated April 18, 2008, but was apparently released on May 23, 2008.  Excerpt:

On 18 April 2008, the General Assembly of EUROHORCs agreed to recommend a minimal standard regarding Open Access to its Member Organisations [MOs]. At the same time, it acknowledges the fact that some MOs have adopted stricter rules already. It considers the proposed minimal standard as an intermediate step towards a system in which free access to all scientific information is guaranteed without jeopardizing the system of peer review, quality control, and long-term preservation. It encourages its members to continuously examine possibilities to move beyond the proposed minimal standard, to develop, jointly with the publishers, means to move toward full Open Access, and to reduce embargo time to not more than six months and later to zero.

Scientists and research organizations can support this recommendation in different ways:

Recommendations for scientists: ...

2. When choosing the appropriate means of disseminating scientific information, authors should always consider the issue of Open Access. If a variety of options are found to be appropriate, higher priority should be given to journals with Open Access rules which are in minimal accordance with the recommendations defined by EURAB in December 2006.

Recommendations for Member Organisations (MOs) of EUROHORCs

3. All MOs of EUROHORCs should sign the Berlin Declaration on Open Access (2003). It is strongly recommended that when ever possible they adopt the EURAB recommendations or at least a weaker version of it by excluding a compulsory limitation of the embargo time to 6 months or less.

4. The overwhelming majority of scientific journal support self-archiving already, but only a very small minority of scientists make use of this possibility. Thus, all scientists, either funded by or doing research for MOs, should be informed about the already existing mechanisms for Open Access and strongly advised to make use of them.

Background to the document ....

[T]he EUROHORCs statement should also send a clear message to scientific publishers that its recommendation on OA just represents an intermediate step; time should be used by the scientific community as well as by the publishers to develop better models for an Open Access scheme.


  • This is big.  The recommended minimum is strong (more below) and the recommender carries great weight with public funding agencies throughout Europe.  All the major public funding agencies in 23 European countries are members of EuroHORCs.
  • Kudos to all involved and especially to Dieter Imboden, who wrote the recommendations at the direction of the EuroHORCs General Assembly.  Imboden is the VP of EuroHORCs, a professor of environmental physics at ETH Zurich, and not coincidentally, president of the Research Council of the Swiss National Science Foundation, which adopted an OA mandate in August 2007.
  • The EuroHORCs recommendations are based on the exemplary EURAB recommendation of December 2006.  For a quick recap, see my blog comments on its strengths:
    It's a mandate, not mere encouragement. It gives authors a choice of repositories for deposit. It caps the permissible embargo at six months. It recommends deposit of the published version, if possible, and the final version of the peer-reviewed manuscript otherwise. It uses what I call the dual deposit/release strategy or what Stevan Harnad calls the immediate deposit / optional access strategy...There's no hint of compromise based on misunderstandings about copyright.
  • Note that the EuroHORCs is proposing a "minimal" OA policy.  The minimum is the EURAB recommendation minus the six-month cap on embargoes.  Hence, mandating OA to funded research is part of the minimum.  EuroHORCs "encourages its members to continuously examine possibilities to move beyond the proposed minimal standard."  That means reducing embargoes to the EURAB standard of six months, but then abolishing them altogether.  Like the Canadian Library Association, EuroHORCs sees embargoes as a temporary compromise which should eventually disappear altogether.