|17 December 2007
1. Scientific research is generating vast, ever increasing quantities of information,
including primary data, data structured and integrated into databases, and
scientific publications. In the age of the Internet, free and efficient access to
information, including scientific publications and original data, will be the key for
2. Peer-review is of fundamental importance in ensuring the certification and
dissemination of high-quality scientific research. Policies towards access to peerreviewed
scientific publications must guarantee the ability of the system to
continue to deliver high-quality certification services based on scientific integrity.
3. Access to unprocessed data is needed not only for independent verification of
results but, more importantly, for secure preservation and fresh analysis and
utilisation of the data.
4. A number of freely accessible repositories and curated databases for publications
and data already exist serving researchers in the EU. Over 400 research
repositories are run by European research institutions and several fields of
scientific research have their own international discipline-specific repositories.
These include for example PubMed Central for peer-reviewed publications in the
life sciences and medicine, the arXiv Internet preprint archive for physics and
mathematics, the DDBJ/EMBL/GenBank nucleotide sequence database and the
RSCB-PDB/MSD-EBI/PDBj protein structure database.
5. With few exceptions, the social sciences & humanities (SSH) do not yet have the
benefit of public central repositories for their recent journal publications. The
importance of open access to primary data, old manuscripts, collections and
archives is even more acute for SSH. In the social sciences many primary or
secondary data, such as social survey data and statistical data, exist in the public
domain, but usually at national level. In the case of the humanities, open access
to primary sources (such as archives, manuscripts and collections) is often
hindered by private (or even public or nation-state) ownership which permits
access either on a highly selective basis or not at all.
Based on these considerations, and following up on its earlier Statement on
Open Access (Appendix 1) the ERC Scientific Council has established the
following interim position on open access:
1. The ERC requires that all peer-reviewed publications from ERC-funded
research projects be deposited on publication into an appropriate research
repository where available, such as PubMed Central, ArXiv or an institutional
repository, and subsequently made Open Access within 6 months of
2. The ERC considers essential that primary data - which in the life sciences for
example could comprise data such as nucleotide/protein sequences,
macromolecular atomic coordinates and anonymized epidemiological data -
are deposited to the relevant databases as soon as possible, preferably
immediately after publication and in any case not later than 6 months after the
date of publication.
The ERC is keenly aware of the desirability to shorten the period between publication
and open access beyond the currently accepted standard of 6 months.
ERC Scientific Council Statement on Open Access
1. The ERC Scientific Council stresses the fundamental importance of peer-reviewed
journals in ensuring the certification and dissemination of high-quality scientific
research and in guiding appropriate allocation of research funds. Policies towards
access to scientific research must guarantee the ability of the system to continue to
deliver high-quality certification services.
2. While the certification quality of the scientific publication system is not in doubt, the
high prices of some journals – which do not seem to be chiefly driven by cost
considerations – raise significant worries concerning the ability of the system to
deliver wide access and therefore efficient dissemination of research results, with the
resulting risk of stifling further scientific progress.
3. These considerations lead the ERC Scientific Council, like other research funding
bodies, to stress the attractiveness of policies mandating the public availability of
research results – in open access repositories – reasonably soon (ideally, 6 months,
and in any case no later than 12 months) after publication.
4. Of course, general open-access policies are not trivial to implement because: (i)
the speed of ‘obsolescence’ of knowledge varies across disciplines; and (ii) so does
the availability of open access repositories. Moreover, coordination between research
funders (at EU level, across parts of the Framework Programme for example, but
also at the level of Member States and their regions) is highly desirable.
5. This being said, it is the firm intention of the ERC Scientific Council to issue
specific guidelines for the mandatory deposit in open access repositories of research
results – that is, publications, data and primary materials – obtained thanks to ERC
grants, as soon as pertinent repositories become operational.
6. The ERC Scientific Council moreover hopes that research funders across Europe
will join forces in establishing common open-access rules and in building European
open access repositories that will help make these rules operational. To facilitate this
process for EU- funded research, it recommends that the European Commission sets
up a task force including representatives from the various FP7 programmes
(Cooperation, Ideas, People, ...) to develop an operational FP7 policy on open
access by the end of 2007 (which takes in particular into account disciplinary
differences and technological constraints).