Site logo

Open Access

Open access (OA) means free access to electronic research publications and research data. It also includes open code, open methodology and open peer reviewing. Authoritative definitions of OA can be found in key political declarations on this subject, such as the Budapest Declaration (2002) and the Berlin Declaration (2003). These definitions describe 'access' in the context of OA as including not only basic elements such as the right to read, download and print, but also the right to copy, distribute, search, link, crawl, and mine.  

Modern research builds on extensive scientific dialogue and advances by improving earlier work. Open science has become a priority for many countries and has featured prominently in high-level statements. The ambitious plan of the European Union stipulates the prevalence of OA and open research data by 2020. This means making publicly funded scientific information available online, at no extra cost, to European researchers, innovative industries and the public, while ensuring that it is preserved in the long term. Researchers are being encouraged to make their publications openly accessible with minimal restrictions. The significant benefit for researchers in making their work available this way is the potential increase in citation rates. The European Union can influence the research system through different forms of legislation and research funding. All projects receiving Horizon 2020 funding are required to make sure that all peer-reviewed scientific journal articles resulting from Horizon 2020 funding are published as OA and deposited in an accessible repository. 

In the context of research and innovation, OA to "scientific information" refers to two main categories: 
a) peer-reviewed scientific publications (primarily research articles published in academic journals) 
b) research data: data underlying publications and/or other data (such as curated but unpublished datasets or raw data). 

OA to research data is less developed across EU countries than OA to research publications. 

For more information

Ways to Provide Open Access to Articles

Self-archiving / 'green' open access – the author, or a representative, archives (deposits) the published article or the final peer-reviewed manuscript in an online repository before, at the same time as, or after publication. Some publishers request that OA be granted only after an embargo period has elapsed. 

Open access publishing / 'gold' open access - an article is immediately published in OA mode. In this model, the payment of publication costs is shifted away from subscribing readers. The most common business model is based on one-off payments by authors. These costs, often referred to as Article Processing Charges (APCs) are usually borne by the researcher's university or research institute or the agency funding the research. In other cases, the costs of OA publishing are covered by subsidies or other funding models. 

A hybrid journal includes both free and subscription-only content. OA articles in a hybrid journal are usually made openly available by an author paying an APC. 

Important to note:  
OA publications go through the same peer review process as non-open access publications. 
OA and associated issues move fast. Data and information on OA may quickly become out of date.  

Researchers need to make the decision on whether they want to commercially exploit the results of their research or not – in the first case they will decide to protect their Intellectual Property Rights, in the second case they should go down the OA route. OA becomes an issue only if publication is chosen as a means of dissemination. OA does not affect the decision to exploit research results commercially, e.g. through patenting. 

Authors may often, depending on publisher policies, do both: publish via the "gold" route and self-archive simultaneously using the "green" route. This approach may increase the readership of research. 

These sources help authors in identifying what to deposit – preprint, post-print, or publisher’s version of their publications: 
SHERPA/RoMEO - information about publisher’s copyright policies and journal’s self-archiving policies 
SHERPA/JULIET - information about research funders’ policies and their requirements on OA, publication and data archiving 

Researchers often are not aware of how to retain their copyright and grant adequate licences to publishers. Creative Commons licences allow researchers to prescribe the terms and conditions to which their publications and data can be used and how it should be attributed. This type of licence is a good legal tool for providing OA in its broadest sense. For more information: Creative Commons and Open Access 

Open Access to Research Data

"Research data" refers to information, in particular facts or numbers, collected to be examined and considered as a basis for reasoning, discussion, or calculation. In a research context, examples of data include statistics, results of experiments, measurements, observations resulting from fieldwork, survey results, interview recordings and images. 
The focus is on research data that is available in digital form. 

Why research data is an important asset for researchers
- Making data available increases citations to associated articles 
- Researchers need to collaborate, they need other people’s data and to share their own 
- Publishers increasingly require supporting data be made available before the journal article can be published 
- Future research funding may depend on making past project data available 

Sometimes there are legitimate reasons for data not to be made available, which include privacy, ethical, security or commercial concerns. Research data must be accompanied by standardised metadata and digital persisent identifiers (e.g. DOIs). 

  • Metadata is a standardised amount of information about an object or resource that describes characteristics of that object, such as authorship, title, content, time of publication, quality, format, location and access rights. Metadata is the key to making research data publishable, discoverable, citable and reusable. 

  • Persistent identifiers support persistent linking of data and metadata. 

DataCite  is an organization that works with data centers to assign digital object identifiers (DOIs) to research assets. The University of Tartu joined the DataCite in 2014 and acquired the right to assign unique DOIs to research data. The University of Tartu is the DataCite member and Allocation Agent for DataCite DOIs in Estonia. In 2015, Estonian universities formed the DataCite Estonia Consortium

Open Access in Horizon 2020

The European Commission is running a pilot on OA to research data in Horizon 2020: the Open Research Data (ORD) pilot. The pilot focuses on the data needed to validate the results presented in scientific publications. This pilot takes into account the need to balance openness with the protection of scientific information, commercialisation and Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), privacy concerns, and security, as well as questions of data management and preservation. 

The pilot applies to research data underlying publications but beneficiaries can also voluntarily make other datasets open. 

Participating in the ORD Pilot does not necessarily mean opening up all research data. Participating projects are required to develop a Data Management Plan, in which they will specify what data will be open. The European Research Council strongly encourage researchers to establish good research data management in accordance with the current best practices in their respective fields and to share their data with other researchers in a responsible way. 

The Open Research Data Pilot applies to all thematic areas of Horizon 2020 since 2017, while ensuring opt-outs at any stage.   

Open Access Repositories and Directories

Open Access repositories are freely accessible online digital archives designed to store, preserve and disseminate research outputs in perpetuity. A repository for scientific publications and data is an online archive. They must meet certain standards, e.g. comply with the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH), which makes their full-text content and metadata harvestable by search engines and discovery services. The authors of scholarly works should maintain their freedom to choose the publishers and publications where to publish and the repositories where to preserve their research results. Institutional, subject based and centralised repositories are all acceptable choices. 

The European Research Council (ERC) encourages ERC funded researchers to use discipline-specific repositories for their publications (e.g. Europe PubMed Central for life sciences, arXiv for physical sciences and engineering). If there is no appropriate repository, researchers should make their publications available in institutional repositories or in centralized ones. The Council requests that an electronic copy of any research publication that is supported by ERC funding be deposited in a suitable repository immediately upon publication. Open access should be provided as soon as possible and in any case no later than six months after the official publication date. For publications in the social sciences and humanities domain a delay of up to twelve months is acceptable. 

The Open Access Infrastructure for Research in Europe OpenAIRE - is the recommended entry point to determine what repository to choose. OpenAIRE brings together scholarly metadata to support open scholarship and improve the reuse of publications and data. Some repositories like Zenodo (an OpenAIRE and CERN collaboration), allows researchers to deposit both publications and data, while providing tools to link them. 

Useful listings of global directories and repositories: 
Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) - a community-curated online directory that indexes and provides access to high quality, open access, peer-reviewed journals 
Directory of Open Access Repositories (OpenDOAR), launched in 2006 by University of Nottingham (UK) and Lund University (Sweden) 
Bielefeld Academic Search Engine (BASE) - academic content and useful searching features, operated by Bielefeld University Library (Germany) 

Discipline specific repositories: 
ArXiv - content for physics, mathematics and computer science., owned and operated by Cornell University 
Europe PMC - access to worldwide life sciences articles, books, patents and clinical guidelines 
- The list of Disciplinary repositories in the Open Access Directory wiki 

Data repositories:  
Registry of Research Data Repositories - re3data.org - a global registry of research data repositories. 
Data repositories - a list of repositories and databases for open data in the Open Access Directory wiki 
Pangaea - a global repository of data in the fields of geo and environmental sciences