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Horizon 2020 research will be open access

But lack of detail means researchers may not follow through

Horizon 2020 will provide funding for researchers to publish their work in a way that is freely accessible, under a plan announced by digital agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes.

The plan would allow researchers funded by Horizon 2020 to choose their own approach to open-access publishing. Officials said that resources will be made available to pay for so-called gold open access, where authors pay up-front fees to their publishers, but they can also choose green open access, placing their material in open archives on, or shortly after, its publication in a journal.

Introducing the plan on 16 July, Kroes, who strongly advocated open-source software in her previous role as competition commissioner, said: “Taxpayers should not have to pay twice for scientific research and they need seamless access to raw data.” Although the policy was introduced by Kroes, it also has the unqualified support of Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, the research and innovation commissioner, Commission officials say.

The plan states that all articles produced with funding from Horizon 2020, which runs from 2014 to 2020, will have to be open access—and also sets a target that 60 per cent of all publicly-funded research in Europe should be open access by 2016.

However the plan contains no details about precisely how grantees will be encouraged to achieve open access. Other funders, such as the UK’s Wellcome Trust, have found it necessary to threaten sanctions to make this happen. It remains unclear whether the Commission’s policy will change researchers’ behaviour and lead to an increase in open-access publication.

An EU-funded open-access repository called OpenAIRE has already attracted more than 8,000 papers from work funded by Framework, and another 16,500 papers are lined up to appear in it after a six or twelve-month embargo. A pilot project for open access in the Framework Programme has sought to encourage and monitor open-access publishing in about 20 per cent of Framework-7-funded projects.

But officials were unable to say what proportion of publications within the pilot have ended up being published with open access.

There are also some concerns about the option to choose both gold and green options for open access. Tim Hunt, the biologist who chairs the European Research Council’s working group on open access, says that a major problem for gold open access is that researchers will want to pay to publish their work after their grant has expired.

A Commission official said that this problem had been noted, and that there would be a mechanism in Horizon 2020 to make sure that this could happen. A spokesman for Kroes added that both gold and green were “very good options”.

The spokesman suggested that money to support gold open access could come from the existing allocation of 1 per cent of all Framework grants to support dissemination of research findings. The spokesman noted that some of that 1 per cent was probably wasted, funding “videos that may be interesting, but aren’t much viewed” for example.

Officials say that this and other details for implementing the Commission’s policy will only be drawn up after the Commission, the European Parliament and member states have agreed the framework for Horizon 2020 itself.

The open-access plan was announced just after the European Research Council released a study showing that more than three-fifths of 630 papers published so far by ERC grantees are openly available to the public. This number is surprisingly high and reflects the fact that many top scientific journals now release papers to open access after a six or twelve-month embargo.

On 13 July, the ERC, which as a semi-autonomous agency can set its own open-access rules, announced it was joining life sciences repository UK PubMed Central, to be renamed Europe PubMed Central from November.