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University of Groningen LibraryOpen AccessPolicy UG on 'Green open access'

Go green: be transparent

Go green: be transparent
Go green: be transparent

Your research is funded by Dutch and European tax payers. Research processes should be transparent and their results readily available to the public.

Want to give something back to society?

Go green open access: Deposit your publications in the University’s research database Pure and make them freely accessible. The University of Groningen Library and the Central Medical Library handle all copyright and licensing issues for you.

Public access to publicly funded research

Every year, large amounts of public research money go to universities and independent research institutions. In 2014 the European Union, directly and through its member states, spent a hundred billion euros (€ 100,000,000,000) on R&D, and the Netherlands alone almost 6 billion euros. Private charities spend an additional 2.3 billion euros annually in the EU, of which about 200 million euros in the Netherlands. That is lots of taxpayers’ money – even without the extra one billion euros proposed for the Netherlands in the wake of Ben Feringa’s Nobel Prize for Chemistry.

In 2015, the University of Groningen had an income of about 650 million euros, of which 176 million euros in contract research income, and a major portion of the remaining 480 million euros also going into research. No wonder that governments and other funders have started demanding transparency, in the form of public access to the research results of public money.

The European Union

After some years of tentative open access policies since 2007, the European Union has declared open science to be one of its strategic priorities from 2014 onwards. It therefore requires (and enforces compliance with the requirement) that all research publications funded under its huge Horizon 2020 programme are openly accessible, free of charge. The EU acknowledges that “two main and non-mutually exclusive routes towards open access to publications exist”, which it both supports: ‘gold’ open access (free availability in a scholarly journal) and ‘green’ open access. It defines the latter as: “the published article or the final peer-reviewed manuscript is archived by the researcher – or a representative – in an online repository before, after or alongside its publication [in a journal]. Access to the article is often – but not necessarily – delayed (‘embargo period’) as some scientific publishers may wish to recoup their investment by selling subscriptions and charging pay-per-download/view fees during an exclusivity period.” It also argues that “studies have shown that articles available in a repository are cited more often than those available only in subscription-based journals”.

More specifically, the Horizon 2020 Guidelines and the corresponding FAQ state that “for self-archiving (‘green’ open access), researchers can deposit the final peer-reviewed manuscript in a repository of their choice. In this case, they must ensure open access to the publication within the embargo period of six months of publication – 12 months in case of the social sciences and humanities. (…). Explaining the limited length of these allowed embargo periods, the European Commission says “it is convinced that in today's world time is more and more a crucial factor to bear in mind. (…) Staying ‘on top of the game’ as concerns the availability of research is therefore crucial. (…) The embargo periods chosen are based on previous experience with the FP7 pilot as well as international best practices.”

The Netherlands

In the Netherlands the government has been following a forceful open access policy since the fall of 2013. The State Secretary for Higher Education, Sander Dekker, stated that the government wants all publicly funded research publications to be available free of charge by 2024, with 60% open access by the end of 2018. The Dutch government prefers what it calls the ‘golden road’, with authors paying for the publication of their scientific articles which will then become available for free. At first, green open access was seen by Dekker as only third best, after – first – publication in open access only (‘pure gold’) journals and – second – open access publication in subscription (‘hybrid’) journals. His major objection against green open access is the existence of embargoes, which could result in access to research results that may in the meantime have become obsolete. The government’s preference for gold open access was criticised from various quarters, with pleas to take green open access more seriously.

This was before the Dutch Parliament adopted a change in the Copyright Law (by MP Taverne), which took effect as of 1 July 2015 and may give a boost to green open access. It states that academic articles resulting from research that is wholly or partly publicly funded may be placed in open access by the author after a reasonable period of time. The author may not surrender this right. University staff no longer need to stipulate or reserve this right in agreements with publishers to which Dutch law applies. They automatically hold and retain this right following the amendment to the law. They simply have to reach an agreement with the publisher about what constitutes a ‘reasonable period of time’.

About the length of this embargo period, the explanation that goes with the law change only states that contrary to the German law this not fixed at 12 months, but can be both shorter or longer depending on the case at hand. It seems likely that the embargo periods introduced by the EU, 6 to 12 months, will set a baseline.

NWO (Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research), funder of much of Dutch university research, follows the government’s policy closely. With effect from 1 December 2015, NWO demands “immediate open access at the moment of publication”, and announced that it will “intensify its efforts to monitor compliance from 2016 onwards.” NWO does not allow a waiver in the case of non-cooperating publishers and with regard to embargoes states that “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.”
Against the – widely shared – objection that a pre-review version of an article may contain mistakes and should not be forced into open access, NWO states: “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.”
It is unclear (and in our view unlikely) whether NWO will enforce its policy even for journals allowing only preprints in green open access.

Green open access and the VSNU ‘big deals’

Lately, many researchers from Dutch universities have started to benefit from the open access deals made by the VSNU, which open up many journals for ‘gold’ open access publishing. But still only a minority of journals are involved in these deals, and it remains to be seen how financially sustainable they will be in the longer run. Therefore archiving your research publications in the institutional repository, which will in due course make them available in green open access, remains an important additional way of complying with the requirements of national and international funders.

More information

Last modified:21 December 2018 11.31 a.m.
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