Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Sunday, August 24, 2008

EC launches an experimental OA mandate

The European Commission has launched an experimental OA mandate for 20% of its 2007-2013 research budget.  From the EC press release (August 20, 2008):

Fast and reliable access to research results, especially via the Internet, can drive innovation, advance scientific discovery and support the development of a strong knowledge-based economy. The European Commission wants to ensure that the results of the research it funds under the EU's 7th Research Framework Programme (FP7) with more than 50 billion from 2007 - 2013 are disseminated as widely and effectively as possible to guarantee maximum exploitation and impact in the world of researchers and beyond. The Commission today launched a pilot project that will give unrestricted online access to EU-funded research results, primarily research articles published in peer reviewed journals, after an embargo period of between 6 and 12 months. The pilot will cover around 20% of the FP7 programme budget in areas such as health, energy, environment, social sciences and information and communication technologies.

"Easy and free access to the latest knowledge in strategic areas is crucial for EU research competitiveness. This open access pilot is an important step towards achieving the 'fifth freedom', the free movement of knowledge amongst Member States, researchers, industry and the public at large," said EU Commissioner for Science and Research Janez Poto?nik. "Beyond, it is a fair return to the public of research that is funded by EU money."

"...Our new pilot will harness that potential, making it easier for researchers, businesses and policy makers to address global challenges like climate change by providing them with access to the latest research," said Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media. "I welcome especially the fact that scientific publishers have started to move gradually towards new dissemination models and are collaborating with researchers on open access. They have given valuable input to the Commission on these areas, which has been used in the preparation of the pilot project. This will allow a mutually beneficial coexistence that maximises the effects of open access on publicly funded research while leaving room for privately financed business models in publishing."

The Commission's open access pilot, to run until the end of FP7 [in 2013], aims to ensure that the results from EU-funded research are progressively made available to all. Grant recipients will be required to deposit peer reviewed research articles or final manuscripts resulting from their FP7 projects in an online repository. They will have to make their best effort to ensure open access to these articles within either six or twelve months after publication, depending on the research area. This embargo period will allow scientific publishers to get a return on their investment....

Also see the pilot project FAQ.  Excerpt:

Why are embargo periods running from 6 to 12 months instead of a single embargo period?

Scientific publishers draw attention to the fact that when considering open access policies, funding bodies should be aware that "one size does not fit all". The length of time during which research results are novel and useful varies according to discipline....

As this is a pilot initiative, the different embargo periods allow the Commission to experiment and assess the impact of such embargo periods....

The new OA clause in grant agreement makes clear that the embargo period

will be 6 months in the thematic areas "Health", "Energy", "Environment (including Climate Change)", and "Information & communication technologies"...and the activity "Research infrastructures"..., and 12 months in the thematic area "Socio-economic Sciences and the Humanities" and the activity "Science in Society".

Also see the full text EC decision (August 20, 2008) and its Annex 1.


  • Key points:  (1) the project is limited to 20% (10+ billion) of the FP7 research budget (50+ billion), but is part of a plan to insure that publicly-funded research is "progressively made available to all"; (2) the pilot runs until the end of FP7 in 2013; (3) the EC acknowledges publisher input and wants the plan to preserve private-sector publishers; (4) the plan uses variable embargo periods (6-12 months) to reflect the fact that articles in different fields have longer or shorter periods of market value; (5) for the research to which the new policy applies, this is an OA mandate; deposit in an OA repository is required.
  • As far as I can tell, the policy doesn't yet specify the repositories in which grantees must deposit copies of their work or the timing of the deposits (as opposed to the timing of the eventual OA release).
  • In justifying the project, the EC uses four welcome and familiar arguments: (1) that OA makes research faster and more efficient; (2) that OA to publicly-funded research is a part of a "fair return to the public"; (3) that OA multiplies the funder's return on investment; and (4) that OA to European research will boost the European economy and improve its competitiveness.
  • The EC will release more details on September 1 at the pilot project home page (now largely empty).
  • While the EC acknowledges publisher input, it doesn't acknowledge the input from researchers and research organizations in support of OA, although it largely incorporates their recommendations.  For the major OA recommendations leading up to this pilot project, see the EC-sponsored study in 2006, the December 2006 statement from the Scientific Council of the European Research Council (ERC), the January 2007 report from the European Research Advisory Board (EURAB), and a petition signed by more than 26,000 European researchers and more than 1,300 European research institutions.
  • For background, see my article on the EC's February 2007 plan or Communication for OA in Europe.  Also see the EC's cryptically brief announcement from July 2008 that this OA pilot project was coming, and the EC Research Commission's previous signals that it wanted to make "movement of knowledge" a fifth freedom alongside the movement of goods, services, capital, and labor guaranteed by the EU Treaty.
  • This isn't the first EU-wide OA mandate.  The European Research Council adopted its OA mandate in December 2007.

Update.  I was wrong in my second bullet point above.  The EC has expressed a preference for institutional repositories.  From the FAQ:

How will the open access pilot be implemented?

New grant agreements in the areas covered by the pilot will contain a clause requiring grant recipients to deposit peer reviewed research articles or final manuscripts resulting from their FP7 projects into their institutional or if unavailable a subject-based repository....

Update.  As part of a separate but related policy, the EC will pay publication fees at fee-based OA journals.  (Thanks to Matthew Cockerill.)  From the FAQ:

Are there similar projects on open access initiated by the Commission? ...

- the Commission has taken the initiative to use FP7 grant agreements to encourage grantees to take advantage of reimbursement for the full cost of open access publishing so that their research articles can be made available in open access mode as soon as they are published....