Q&A Open Access at NWO

Towards worldwide public science

With effect from 1 December 2015, NWO has tightened the conditions in the Regulation on Granting with respect to Open Access. The phrase ‘accessible to the public as quickly as possible’ has become ‘immediate Open Access at the moment of publication’. The exact meaning of this in practice is described below.

Why does NWO consider Open Access to be so important that it has now made it compulsory?

NWO believes that it is no longer appropriate that knowledge paid for with public money disappears behind paywalls. Subscriptions cost the scientific community a lot of money each year. Paywalls also delay the progress of science because current knowledge is not immediately accessible to everybody. Therefore NWO is a proponent of Open Access: free online access to scientific publications without an embargo period. The individual researcher also has a lot to gain in this respect. Open Access leads to greater visibility of scientific publications and to more citations.

NWO is not alone in this conviction. To realise the transition to Open Access it is working together with the Association of Universities in the Netherlands, the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science and many other parties at both a national and international level. Open Access is one of the spearheads of the Dutch EU Presidency in 2016. Science has much to gain from Open Access. Therefore the responsibility to join in this international movement primarily lies with individual scientists. NWO is making its contribution by tightening its granting conditions in this area.

Which variants of Open Access are there?

Open Access has two variants. ‘Gold’ and ‘Green’ Open Access are two different variants of the same principle: free access to scientific publications. In the case of Gold Open Access researchers publish their articles in fully Open Access journals. These are online academic journals that do not have subscriptions and are therefore accessible to everybody. These journals charge costs for publishing articles: Article Processing Charges (APCs). In the case of Green Open Access, researchers publish their articles in a traditional subscription journal, but a version of the article is also made accessible via a public database (for example, a university repository) at the same time as this publication. NWO prefers Gold Open Access.

There is also an intermediate form, the so-called ‘hybrid’ Open Access. In that case researchers publish in a traditional subscription journal but pay APCs to make this article freely accessible.

When does a researcher satisfy the requirement for Open Access?

Publications published according to the aforementioned Gold or Green Open Access standards satisfy the NWO granting conditions. Articles in subscription journals that are made freely available straightaway via payment by the author or via an agreement between the Dutch universities and the publisher also satisfy the NWO conditions.

Are the costs for Open Access publications subsidisable?

Yes. To cover the costs of Article Processing Charges (APCs, the editing and publication costs for Open Access articles and books) principal applicants of research funded by NWO can turn to the NWO Incentive Fund Open Access. Up to 6000 euros per research project can be applied for. The direct placing of publications in the repository is usually free of charge. As NWO wants to encourage Gold Open Access, the Incentive Fund can only be used for APCs of articles in Gold Open Access journals or books that at the moment of publication are available in Open Access form.

Are researchers with NWO funding now no longer allowed to publish in journals that are not Open Access or make use of an embargo?

That is not the case. Researchers who receive NWO funding can continue to publish as normal in the vast majority of academic journals. There are already various Gold Open Access journals and many traditional journals offer possibilities for Green Open Access. Researchers prefer to place the final version of the article in the repository but if the publisher does not permit that then a post-review, or if needs be a pre-review version, of the article satisfies NWO’s conditions. Most journals permit the deposition of a post-review or pre-review version of the article without an embargo period. In this way the researcher can continue to publish in important journals and at the same time everybody can read his research results free of charge. An overview of the possibilities per journal can be found in the Sherpa/Romeo-database.

When will the new granting conditions with respect to Open Access become effective?

The new NWO Regulation on Granting concerns every call for proposals that NWO publishes after the regulation has been published in the Staatscourant. The regulation will be published in the Staatscourant on 1 December 2015. The granting conditions for calls published before this date and current research projects remain the same.

Does the stricter policy also apply to researchers who work at an NWO institute?

Yes, researchers at NWO institutes should make their research results accessible to everybody at the moment of publication.

What if a researcher wants to publish in a journal that does not permit any form of placing in a repository?

As a national research council NWO strives to ensure that knowledge paid for with public money is publicly accessible straightaway. At the same time, NWO realises that the transition to full access is a complex process in which many different interests play a role. There are still publishers that impose embargos. There are also publishers that do not permit deposition in a repository at all. NWO calls upon the scientific community to contribute to Open Access by making the results directly accessible. NWO will use the period until 1 January 2018 to map where any possible large publication obstacles for researchers arise. In this period NWO will make use of the 'comply or explain principle'. During this period, if a researcher wants to publish publications emerging from research funded by NWO under this new regulation in a journal that does not permit any type of deposition (also not the author’s version) then NWO will discuss the matter with this researcher. In addition, NWO will also discuss the matter with the publisher concerned.

What will happen if a researcher does not make his work immediately Open Access accessible?

The requirement for Open Access is established in the NWO Regulation on Granting. Failure to comply with these conditions is the same as not complying with other conditions attached to an NWO grant. In the case of such non-compliance, NWO will initially speak with the project leader. NWO has the authority in extreme cases of non-compliance with its granting conditions to withdraw the grant provided (or part thereof) or to reduce the size of the grant. From 2018 onwards NWO will strictly apply the tightened granting conditions.

How will NWO check if the Open Access requirement has been complied with?

For some time NWO has asked the researchers it funds to publish Open Access. To make its researchers even more aware of the importance of publicly available knowledge, NWO will intensify its efforts to monitor compliance from 2016 onwards. NWO will regularly check on a random basis whether the results of research it funds are actually available in an Open Access form.

Pre-review versions of articles can still contain mistakes, as a result of which others might get a wrong impression of the research results. Why does NWO then still require that researchers deposit this version in the repository if the publisher places an embargo on other versions?

Knowledge that is paid for with public money should immediately benefit science and society. Knowledge should never disappear behind paywalls, not even temporary ones. NWO does indeed prefer direct public access to a preview version as opposed to delayed access to the final version. NWO is well aware that Open Access via pre-review versions is not the optimum form of Open Access. NWO asks researchers to always first of all carefully examine the possibilities for Gold Open Access (or Green Open Access via the deposition of a final version) before deciding which journal to publish in. If the researcher nevertheless opts for a journal that only permits the deposition of pre-review versions then NWO advises clearly stating in the article that it is a pre-review version. People interested in the research can then contact the author for a final version of the article.

How does the tightened Open Access policy of NWO fit in with the offsetting deals of the VSNU?

Dutch universities have made so-called offsetting deals (also known as big deals) with various large academic publishers (including Springer, Wiley and SAGE). These deals frequently mean that researchers (mostly the corresponding authors) who are employed at a Dutch university can make use of the Open Access option with these publishers without the need to pay APCs. Researchers who want to know what opportunities the deals provide for them with respect to Open Access can ask their university or university library. Researchers who publish Open Access under an offsetting deal of the university obviously satisfy the NWO conditions for Open Access.

Which researchers publish with NWO funding and therefore have an Open Access obligation?

For individual researchers who work within a research group or project is not always clear if they actually publish with NWO funding and therefore have an Open Access obligation. The NWO granting conditions are applicable to all research projects that are partly or entirely made possible with NWO funding. This therefore also applies to researchers who, for example, are doing research in a PPP context. At the moment of publication their results should also be made public and the able to benefit society. The new Open Access policy still allows agreements to be made about delaying publication for the benefit of exploitation. NWO advises all project leaders to properly inform researchers working in the projects about the existence of the Open Access requirement.

Is Open Access policy for the publication of books or contributions to volumes the same as for articles?

Yes, for results that are published in books the same granting conditions apply as articles. NWO encourages the publication of completely Open Access books, but at the very least a version of the book must be accessible in Open Access form. Various Open Access platforms (such as OAPEN) now exist where books can be submitted in Open Access form.

Will NWO’s policy result in top foreign scientists avoiding the influence in the future?

This is a speculative question. Nevertheless at present there are no indications for this. The transition to Open Access is not limited to the Netherlands, although in this area the Netherlands is leading the way due to the ambitious targets it has set for the proportion of Open Access publications. Furthermore, in the Netherlands the right to Open Access publication has been anchored in the Copyright Act with effect from 1 July 2015. Top universities throughout the world are working, for example, on repositories in which their articles are findable and accessible. And major research funding bodies are increasingly imposing requirements that are comparable to those of NWO. Recently LERU (League of European Research Universities) also called for a stricter European Open Access policy. Through Open Access publishing research is read more often and more easily found by others. Open Access publications benefit science, society and industry sooner. The vast majority of journals already have a form of Open Access publishing. Thanks in part to the offsetting deals of Dutch universities, Open Access publishing in the Netherlands has now become easier than in many other countries. Open Access Publishing in the Netherlands gives a researcher, in particular, many advantages.

What about the impact factor of Open Access journals?

Many disciplines already have leading journals with an Open Access earning model. PloS One is a good example in biology. There are more (emerging) Open Access journals with a high impact. The impact factor is only calculated after three years and therefore young journals (which are often Open Access) are trailing by definition. Some journals switch from a subscription model to Open Access and therefore retain their impact factor. Editors often set up new Open Access journals. A good example of that is the initiative LingOA, with which linguists left their non-Open Access publisher and started new Open Access journals.

Is there and up-to-date list of reliable Open Access journals?

The DOAJ – Directory of Open Access Journals is a resource for verifying whether Open Access journals are reliable and satisfy the standards for Gold Open Access. However, NWO always asks researchers to take care with the choice of journal.

How do I know which repositories are reliable?

NWO considers all repositories included in OpenDOAR (see www.opendoar.org) to be reliable repositories. There are also overviews of repositories and pre-print servers; these are often organised per discipline (such as ArXiv, RePEc). It is always wise to deposit a version of the article in the university repository – that prevents fragmentation and ensures a publicly accessible copy of the article.

NWO has an Open Science policy. What exactly does that involve?

Open Science means more than just publishing in an Open Access form. Open Science currently concerns three concrete areas for NWO: Open Access publishing, ensuring optimal access to research data and encouraging scientific integrity. During 2015 there was a pilot with respect to data management. Open Science is one of the spearheads of the Dutch EU presidency in 2016 and of the European Commission, which has published an Open Science Agenda.