Open Access in the EU

The European Union (EU) has a range of initiatives dedicated to establishing Open Access as the norm in scientific publishing. These are part of its research and innovation strategy. Here, we’ll explore the EU’s Open Access policy in the context of its wider goals.

The EU defines Open Access as “the practice of providing online access to scientific information that is free of charge to the user and is reusable”. This is primarily in the form of peer-reviewed scientific publications, usually articles in academic journals, and scientific research data. Essentially, the EU argues that Open Access contributes to better and more efficient science and can deliver more innovation in the public and private sectors.

The EU sees Open Access as key tool of its overall research and innovation strategy.

EU Research and Innovation Strategy 2020‒2024

This strategy aims to respond, firstly, to the new challenges brought on by the pandemic and climate change. Secondly, it seeks to drive the green and digital transformations already underway in Europe. Here are the six primary goals:

  • Environment and climate: become the first climate-neutral continent.
  • Our digital future: empower people with a new generation of technologies and standards.
  • Jobs and economy: power up industry to achieve societal goals.
  • Protecting our citizens and values: prepare for crises and support health.
  • Europe in the world: set standards for climate, environment, and labour protections.
  • Democracy and rights: give citizens a stronger voice.

But how do we address these problems? Basically, the EU believes in knowledge and solution sharing without barriers; namely, Open Access, ensuring that the information being produced at the cutting edge is open to and being applied to benefit ordinary people.

So, let’s investigate the EU’s Open Access policy and how it’s evolved.

Commission Recommendations

In 2007, an EU report on scientific information in the digital age concluded by encouraging experimentation with Open Access. Later, in 2012, a report was released, with recommendations on the access to and preservation of scientific information, that specifically called for publicly funded research to be Open Access.

Open Access, the report claims, is necessary for developing an economy based on knowledge and innovation, and to make the most of Europe’s research potential. Moreover, it responds to calls across the scientific community for greater access to information.

Basically, the report was a sustained call for embracing Open Access across Europe. It concluded with some future aims: defining clear Open Access policy, ensuring institutions implement it, developing infrastructure, and establishing national points of reference.

Horizon 2020

The 2012 recommendations were applied in the EU’s research and innovation funding programme, Horizon 2020. The programme ran from 2014 to 2020 and provided grants to projects through open and competitive calls for proposals. The budget was €80 billion.

Horizon 2020 made Open Access mandatory for all the projects that it funded. And the achievements it celebrated in 2020 are as follows:

  • More investments.
  • Strengthened policy and legal frameworks.
  • Improved information and knowledge.
  • Enhanced education and awareness.
  • Higher priority of pollution reduction and prevention.
  • Contribution to establishing green economies.

Horizon Europe

After the success of Horizon 2020, the EU implemented Horizon Europe. This funding programme will last until 2027 and has a budget of €95.5 billion. Its aims are to facilitate collaboration and strengthen the impact of research and innovation in developing, supporting, and implementing EU policies whilst tackling global challenges.

Accordingly, Open Access continues to be mandatory for researchers receiving funding. This is so Horizon Europe can support the “creating and better dispersing of excellent knowledge and technologies”. Its aims revolve around tackling climate change, achieving the UN’s SDGs, and boosting the EU’s competitiveness and growth.

Additionally, it strives to simplify its funding model. This includes creating more consistent rules regarding Open Access and greater transparency, which will serve as a model for the implementation of Open Access internationally.

cOAlition S and Plan S

Alongside Horizon, in 2018, the EU supported a group of national researching funding organisations in launching cOAlition S, which is built around Plan S. This aims at “making full and immediate Open Access a plan”.

From 2021, Plan S mandates “full and immediate Open Access to peer-reviewed scholarly publications from research funded by public and private grants”. This is supported by ten principles that address copyright, transparency, and criteria, among other things. This can be seen as addressing the aims of Horizon Europe to streamline Open Access policy.

Furthermore, cOAlition S provides guidance for implementing Open Access, news about the movement, and two services for scholars, the Journal Comparison Service and the Journal Checker Tool.

Future trends in EU Open Access policy

As described in Plan S, “the chain” of academic research, “whereby scientific discoveries are built on previously established results, can only work optimally if all research results are made openly available to the scientific community”.

Accordingly, the EU is confidently pursuing Open Access as key to its research and innovation programme, which seeks to address global challenges like climate change and boost societal revolutions through industry and technology.

Horizon Europe’s current programme will continue until 2027 and, since Plan S began mandating Open Access in 2021, it’s likely that the EU will continue to refine its policy. Therefore, if you’re a researcher in the EU looking to receive funding, understanding and publishing Open Access is vital to ensure you remain eligible.

Value of Open Access

Open Access makes vital information accessible to all readers and researchers and brings together scholars from across the world. Thus, it’s ideal for tackling global challenges such as climate change and cancer research that require urgent and coordinated attention.

The EU is a model for international Open Access policy. Moreover, it’s likely to continue to expand and refine its requirements and definitions in the coming years.

Publishing Open Access

All articles published by MDPI are made immediately available worldwide under an Open Access license. This means:

  • Everyone has free and unlimited access to the full text of all articles published in MDPI journals;
  • Everyone is free to re-use the published material if proper accreditation/citation of the original publication is given;
  • Open Access publication is supported by the authors’ institutes or research funding agencies by payment of a comparatively low Article Processing Charge (APC) for accepted articles.

Researchers can satisfy the EU’s developing Open Access policy by publishing in an MDPI journal. Alternatively, if you want to publish an early version of your article, try Preprints. This is our service for publishing early versions of research that are not peer-reviewed and report on either ongoing or complete research. Also, click here if you want to learn more about Open Access around the world.