Over the few years, the European Commission has undertaken an ongoing program of investigation into the issue of open access to the results of scientific research.
This included an influential report published in 2006, that looked at the economics of different models of scholarly system, and concluded that the traditional subscription-based system did not operate as an effective market, and that alternate models deserved to be explored. This report was followed by a conference on open access which took place in Brussels in 2007, and an extensive consultation process. Late last year, the new European Research Council announced that its grants would all be covered by a mandatory open access policy.
The latest and perhaps most significant development is the announcement of a pilot open access project in relation to the EC Seventh Research Framework Program (FP7) of funding. FP7 has a budget of just over €50bn and runs from 2007 to 2013. The mandatory policy will initially apply to a subset of fields amounting to about 20% of the total funding (i.e. €10bn). The fields that the pilot open access policy applies to are: health, energy, environment, parts of information and communication technologies, research infrastructures, social sciences and humanities, and science in society. Research grant recipients will be required to deposit open access copies of published articles into an appropriate repository, with a maximum delay of either 6 or 12 months depending on the subject area.
An important point, noted in the FAQ of the pilot program, is that this is not an ‘unfunded mandate’. The FAQ confirms that funds are available to all FP7 grant recipients to cover the cost of publication in open access journals, and funding recipients are encouraged to take advantage of this option to allow their articles to be made openly available immediately, with no embargo period.
"[T]he 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"
For more information on the latest funder policies on open access, see BioMed Central’s Funder Policies page.