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Evaluating the new UG open access regulations (Taverne Amendment)

Date:13 July 2022
Author:Giulia Trentacosti
Ane van der Leij
Ane van der Leij

In May 2021, the University of Groningen (UG) introduced new open access procedural regulations whereby closed access publications by UG and University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG) authors are automatically made available through the UG’s institutional repository (Pure) six months after first publication. The policy concerns short publications (research articles and book chapters), but not monographs and edited volumes. The regulations were developed following a successful national pilot in 2019.

The procedural regulations rely on the legal backing of Article 25fa of the Dutch Copyright Act, also known as the Taverne Amendment, which grants researchers affiliated with Dutch universities the right to make their short academic works open to the public for free following a short embargo period. The University of Groningen Library (UB) and the Central Medical Library (CMB) are responsible for implementing this policy.

To mark the UG regulations’ first anniversary, we interviewed Ane van der Leij, head of the UB’s Research Support department, who oversaw the regulations’ development and implementation.

How many publications were made open access this year thanks to the Taverne Amendment?

The new open access procedural regulations were introduced on 1 May 2021. Since then, my UB colleagues have been tagging all the eligible 2021 publications so that they would become open access after six months. Theoretically, then, the first one would become open access on 1 July 2021. At the same time, they also started opening up all the eligible 2019 and 2020 publications—more than 4,000 short publications. Once publications from 2019 and 2020 became open access, the Pure team worked retrospectively to open up even older publications that were still under closed access. Currently, more than 12,000 short publications have been made accessible through the UG’s research portal.

Recently, we carried out the annual open access monitor for the year 2021. As expected, we are approaching the desired 100% open access goal—at least, for short publications. Currently, 97% of UG and UMCG short publications from 2021 are now open access, while only 3% are still behind a paywall. There are two main reasons for this: a few are still below the six-month embargo period, while for other publications we don’t have access to the PDF because we don’t have it in our library collection and, therefore, the UB cannot open up the file. But these are occasional cases that are well within the operational tolerances.

The UG was the first university to implement the Taverne Amendment by adopting procedural regulations (even though the idea sprang from the UB in Leiden). Even now, not all Dutch universities have implemented it in such a comprehensive way. We worked retrospectively, whereas not all Dutch universities will decide to do the same.

To make it clear, a number of publications that have been opened up would have become open access eventually, e.g. after a 12-, 18-, or 24-month embargo period. However, a large portion would only have been accessible with a licence or a subscription to a journal. There is still a significant number of articles being published behind a paywall. In addition, book chapters in edited volumes and conference proceedings are still largely published in closed access. The Taverne Amendment is therefore very useful.

How did publishers react?

The 2019 pilot was prepared by the Dutch consortium of university libraries (UKB) and carried out collectively. During the developmentof this pilot, the publishers we have consortium deals with were informed and roundtable discussions about Taverne were held with the sector organization for the publishing industry in the Netherlands (de Mediafederatie). Publishers took note of the development, but did not really react. Of course, they were well aware of the existence of the Taverne Amendment before the pilot was carried out. Publishers also knew that Dutch universities had the ambition to upscale the implementation of the Taverne Amendment. So far, publishers have expressed concerns—mostly about the inclusion of book chapters from edited volumes and about the six-month embargo period we apply, which could interfere with the revenues of books in the humanities in particular.

To my knowledge, there have been no take-down requests from publishers sent to the universities that have implemented Taverne, let alone any legal claims. We do know of one publisher that asked a UG researcher to take down his publications from his personal website (he uploaded them there, citing Taverne). In this case, we advised the researcher to remove the articles from his personal website and instead add a link to the UG research portal where the publications are hosted.

Researchers should also rest assured that if a publisher approaches them with questions, a take-down notification, or threats of legal action, the University will always step in and provide full legal support (in collaboration with other Dutch universities). If anything of the sort happens, researchers should get in touch with the open access team at openaccess rug.nl or openaccess umcg.nl. But again, so far, this has never happened.

Researchers can opt out of the regulations policy in case they have a ‘compelling reason’ to do so. How many researchers asked to opt out of the regulations and for what reasons?

So far, no one has. We have had a few questions about how we would deal with an opt-out request. One or two researchers have asked what a compelling reason could be, but one can think of many scenarios. Any reason that makes sense will normally be accepted, e.g. that the authors want to preserve a good working relationship with an editor or a journal and that they have concrete indications that such a relationship could be jeopardized if we were to apply the Taverne Amendment. But we will always discuss the matter first with the author.

Is there a common misconception about how researchers can use the Taverne Amendment?

Yes, that you can also invoke the Taverne Amendment when you publish your papers on academic social networks like ResearchGate or Academia.edu. You can’t. These are for-profit platforms; you need an account to upload publications and sometimes you even have to pay to make full use of their services. Sharing publications on these platforms is partly in violation of the basic principle of Taverne to make academic publications available to the public for no consideration. ‘For no consideration’ implies no financial constraints and ‘to the public’ implies that there should be no obstacles preventing access, such as having to create an account.

Additionally, academic social networks have their own policies as well as potential conditions that may already, or in the future, be in conflict with the Taverne Amendment. For example, when you create an account, you have to agree to not upload any material protected by copyright. Taverne does not dissolve the transfer of copyright to the publisher, nor the publisher's exclusive licence to the copyright. The copyright remains with the publisher, who can (and will) address the academic social network in the event of an identified violation.

We advise authors to include a persistent link on ResearchGate (or other academic social networks) to their publications on the UG research portal, where publications are made open access in accordance with the Taverne Amendment.

You can find more about the procedural regulations in the FAQ on My University or contact our open access teams via openaccess rug.nl or openaccess umcg.nl.

Acknowledgement: Many thanks to the Pure validation team and Wiebe van der Meer in particular for making this possible.

Tags: open science

About the author

Giulia Trentacosti
Open Access and Scholarly Communication Specialist, University of Groningen Library
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