NWO joins international coalition to accelerate the transition to open access

4 September 2018

Today, an international group of research councils called ‘cOAlition S’ and including the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, announced a plan for accelerating the transition to open access. The essence of the plan is that from 1 January 2020 onwards, all publications that emerge from research funded by these research councils must be published in open access journals or open access platforms.

The initiative for the accelerated plan was taken by Robert-Jan Smits, special envoy open access at the European Commission, and is endorsed by a broad coalition of national and European research councils from France, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Norway, Austria, Ireland, Luxembourg, Poland, Slovenia, Italy and the Netherlands. The European Commission has stated its full support to the plan. The European Research Council (ERC) also endorses the plan.


This joint initiative seeks to increase the international pressure on publishers to permanently change their business model and to make open access possible across the full range of journals. Stan Gielen, president of NWO: ‘No science should be locked behind paywalls. It must be freely accessible to everyone who is interested. Universities in many European counties are struggling in reaching agreements with large publishing houses. Meanwhile, these publishers are making exorbitant profits on activities that are mainly carried out by scientists. This has to stop. It is time for publishers to change their business models.’ Besides NWO, ZonMw, the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU), the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science also endorse the importance of the steps currently being taken.

Full open access in practice

The most important consequence of the plan is that from 1 January 2020 onwards, all publications which emerge from NWO/ZonMw funding and funding from other research councils must be published in open access journals or open access platforms. Publication in hybrid journals that work according to the old subscription model but offer the possibility to make articles open access will be allowed during a transition period of two years, that is until the end of 2021 and only if these journals are covered by the type of transformative deals that the VSNU concludes with publishers on behalf of all universities in the Netherlands.

In disciplines where there are not enough opportunities for open access, the organisations will take and support initiatives to create possibilities for these disciplines as well. ‘The universities are pleased with the initiative of cOAlition S, as it clearly supports our negotiations with publishers about open access’, says VSNU president Pieter Duisenberg.

Content above reputation

This plan will have consequences for how researchers and research proposals will be evaluated in the future. Gielen: ‘The content of the research must be the guiding principle, not the number of publications or the reputation of the journal in which the research was published.’ NWO will therefore soon sign the ‘San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA)’: an international initiative that intends to stop the irresponsible use of bibliometric indicators (such as the h-index and the Journal Impact factor). NWO will make further announcements regarding this in the autumn of 2018.

NWO and open access

The Dutch government has stated that all publicly funded research should be available in open access in 2020. Minister Van Engelshoven: `Open science and open access will become standard practice for scientific research in the Netherlands. I support NWO, Robert Jan Smits and their partners in the international collaboration as they seek to take the next step towards 100% open access. We need this international collaboration so that the Netherlands can take steps faster.’ In 2017, 45% of the publications emerging from NWO-funded research were published in open access. NWO was one of the parties in 2017 that signed the National Plan Open Science, which was written to realise the government’s goal. Publication costs associated with open access publishing are eligible for funding by NWO and, since the start of 2018, can be included in the budget of the project proposal.

The details of cOAlition S will be worked out in the coming months by the participating research funders.


Read more

Source: NWO