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European effort to promote open access to research

The Research Council of Norway, together with the EU, the European Research Council (ERC) and other research funders throughout Europe, will be requiring that all  research papers funded under their programmes are to be published with open access starting in 2020. This will give researchers, industry and the public at large ready access to the latest knowledge.

Minister of Research and Higher Education Iselin Nybø (Photo: Stortinget) “Our large-scale investment in research is meant to generate new knowledge and promote economic and social development,” says Minister of Research and Higher Education Iselin Nybø. “To achieve this, the research must be accessible, so it is an important international breakthrough that the EU and European research funders are now demanding open access to all research.”

Current model is unsustainable

Norway has been an active proponent of open access publishing, along with strong research nations such as the Netherlands, Sweden and Germany. Currently, research, which is predominantly carried out by publicly funded institutions, is published in journals owned by a few large international publishers. In order to gain access to published results, institutions must pay for costly subscription agreements. In Norway alone, subscription fees amount to some NOK 300 million annually.

“The current model of publication is simply not sustainable,” says John-Arne Røttingen, Chief Executive of the Research Council. “Taxpayers end up paying three times: first for the actual research to be performed, then again to have the research quality assured, and finally for access to the results. We are not willing to keep on doing this.”

Chief Executive of the Research Council John-Arne Røttingen. (Photo: Sindre Mekjan, Forskningsrådet) Good conditions in Norway

Under the new principles, by 2020 scientific publications must be published in open access journals. The stricter requirements will put pressure on the publishers to make all their journals open access compliant.

“We want the publishers to change the publication model,” continues Dr Røttingen, “from charging for subscriptions and paywalls to charging for quality assurance and publishing. This joint European drive aims to accelerate the transition. Together with the other research councils in Europe, we want to strengthen quality assurance of the publication channels.

“Norway is well equipped for this transition. We cooperate on agreements with the publishing houses and we have Cristin (the Current Research Information System in Norway), where researchers can check the quality of various publishing channels.”

Open access research reaches more users

A recent international study shows that articles published on an open access platform have an 18 per cent higher citation index score than other articles (Piwowar, 2018). Scandinavian University Press, which publishes a large share of Norwegian journals within the humanities and social sciences, is moving steadily towards open access publication of journals and books.

Scandinavian University Press has not yet compiled all figures for changes in the number of readers of open access scientific journals. But statistics for the Norwegian Journal of Social Research indicate that article viewings increased 81 per cent from 2016 to 2017 after the journal switched to an open access platform.

“The figures indicate that research reaches a broader audience when published in open access journals,” concludes Dr Røttingen. “This leads to democratisation of research and enables new groups to benefit from new research findings. This is essential for legitimising research in the public eye.”

European platform for open access: cOAlition S

Participants: the EU, the European Research Council (ERC) and thus far the 11 national research councils of: Austria, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Slovenia, Sweden and the UK.

The objective of the coalition's Plan S is to ensure full and immediate open access to all articles, starting from 1 January 2020. Key principles:

  • Establish robust quality criteria.
  • Help to establish open access publication channels if none of high quality yet exist. Support infrastructure for open access if necessary.
  • Publication costs are covered by the funders or institutions, not by individual researchers.
  • Publication fees are standardised and capped.
  • Use of Creative Commons Attribution Licence CC BY or similar open licenses.
  • Encourage institutions to align policies and strategies, especially to ensure transparency.
  • The requirements apply initially to journal articles but will eventually extend to monographs and books as well.
  • Open archives will remain important for their long-term archiving function and potential for editorial innovation.
  • The hybrid publishing model (journals with some open access articles) is not accepted.
  • The funders will monitor compliance and sanction non-compliance.


Written by:
Christian Lund. Translation: Darren McKellep/Carol B. Eckmann.
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