Open Science, Open Access, Open Data, Open … Europe?

As first Horizon Europe projects are starting, your focus is probably on your research and innovation activities. But don’t forget about the other obligations you have signed up for! One of them is open science. This is a policy priority for the European Commission and a Must in projects funded through Horizon Europe. But what does open science mean for your project? What are you really obliged to do to fulfil the funding requirements? And why is it also good for you?

In the previous research and innovation framework programme Horizon 2020, ‘open’ was mainly about open access to publications and open data concerning data collected or generated during a project. Now in Horizon Europe, this has been widened to open science, which is a much broader approach for early and open sharing of research. Before going into detail, let’s look at the two most common misconceptions about open science:

  • Open science is NOT an obligation to publish! But if you do prepare a scientific, peer -reviewed publication, you will have to comply with the open access requirements;
  • Research data management (“Open data”) concerns all data generated during an EU-funded project, BUT NOT all data has to be shared with everyone! Open sharing of data is only compulsory for datasets underlying your scientific, peer-reviewed publications.

What is Open Science

There are several practices that are part of open science:

  • Open access to scientific, peer reviewed publications (mandatory)
  • FAIR research data management / open data – a data management plan (mandatory)
  • Open access to other research outputs (e.g. tools, software, models, algorithms, workflows, materials) – mandatory for what is needed to validate conclusions of scientific publications
  • Early and open sharing: preregistration, registered reports, pre-prints, open peer review
  • Involving relevant knowledge actors, e.g. crowd-sourcing, citizen science, co-creation with end-users…

Open access requirements in Horizon Europe

To fulfil the open access requirements, a digital copy of your publication must be deposited in a trusted online repository, latest at the time of publication. A new additional obligation in Horizon Europe is the requirement for immediate open access – embargo times as acceptable in Horizon 2020 are not allowed anymore.  A further change concerns the funding of open access cost. Only publication fees of full open access journals can be funded through your grant. You can publish in hybrid journals and pay specifically for open access to your own publication to comply with open access requirements. But this cost is not anymore eligible for reimbursement. And as always, don’t forget to acknowledge the EC funding in your publication!

Research data management (RDM) requirements

While in Horizon 2020 this part was called open data, the EC now uses the wording “research data management”. The requirements have not significantly changed, but rather the wording was adapted to reflect the actual requirements: in H2020, open sharing of all data generated during an EU-funded project was never obligatory; full “open data” was only practiced for datasets underlying peer-reviewed, scientific publications, which had to be deposited openly. For any other datasets, project partners could decide whether to make them available or not, based on the ‘as open as possible, as closed as necessary’ principle. So even in H2020, data management would have been a more appropriate term for what was required. These obligations are unchanged, as is the necessity of a so-called data management plan (DMP), which is a compulsory deliverable. The only change to H2020 is that completely opting out of RDM is no longer possible, and data management must also follow the FAIR principles – to make data findable, accessible, inter-operable and reusable. A simple DMP template is available under the Funding & Tenders portal reference documents (see Templates & forms section).

Open access to other research outputs

This is a bundle of practices that concern access to any research outputs other than publications and data, which are described above. Research outputs can include for example software, models, algorithms and workflows developed in the project. But it can also include physical resources like cell lines, strains of microorganisms, tissue samples, materials, etc. For those outputs that are needed to validate the conclusions of your publications, access needs to be granted, similar to data underlying publications. For all other outputs it is up to you to decide, whether you make them openly available.

Early and open sharing

Instead of solely focusing on results (publications and data), with the much-broadened approach of open science, in Horizon Europe the research process itself receives more attention. Relevant practices include for example pre-registrations, registered reports, pre-prints and open peer review. With pre-registration, the study protocol is created before the experiments start, time-stamped and uploaded to a public repository. It includes study design, methods and analysis. Registered reports go one step further: these are study proposals submitted to a journal and peer-reviewed before the research is undertaken. If the proposal is accepted, outcomes of the study will be published independently of the results (i.e., also negative results are published). Pre-prints are early versions of your scientific articles that are uploaded to recognized servers before submission to a journal, for quick sharing of your result and to receive feedback before submitting to a journal. Open peer review does not speed up sharing of results, but makes the peer review process more open, by disclosing authors and reviewer identities to each other during the review process.

Involving relevant knowledge actors

This refers to practices like crowd-sourcing e.g. through citizen science or co-creation with end-users. It is more than just sharing of your results or communication, as it refers to true involvement of your stakeholders in your science. Crowd sourcing is a practice where you involve many others (i.e. the crowd). This can be citizen science, where everyone can contribute, or more defined ‘crowds’, like employees, specific professionals, or customers. They can be involved in generating research questions (co-design), developing new knowledge or collecting data (co-create), analysing (co-assess), etc.

What’s in it for you?

Open science not only helps others by giving them access to your results and data, it can also help your career. It makes you as a scientist and your science more visible, while also increasing your credibility, by letting others confirm your results and conclusions, based on data and other research outputs you make available. Open access can boost how often you get cited, as it also gives access to researchers that do not have a subscription for the chosen journal. The high-quality PDF of your publication you will receive is a plus for all other project communication and dissemination activities. You can send it out freely, put it on your own website, ResearchGate, etc. Open access also helps your next application for EC grants: in Part A of the proposal, partners are asked to list relevant publications, which are expected to be open access. Finally, if you chose to deposit in the Zenodo repository, this saves you time when reporting, as this repository is linked to the EC funding & tenders portal. Open data helps you, because repositories assign a digital object identifier number (DOI number) also for datasets which are not linked to a publication. This makes it easy for you to link to your data and get credit for your work. Early and open sharing practices like pre-prints or registered reports can give you valuable feedback both on the design of your experiments and the publication, that ultimately helps you save time and other resources.

What is…..?

  • Open access: refers to scientific, peer-reviewed publications, which need to be deposited to make them accessible without cost
  • Open data: refers to depositing of research data
  • Deposit: upload your publication and/or data to a repository
  • Repository: is an online archive which can be based at your institution, subject-based or centralised
  • Data management plan (DMP): document describing data generated in a project, its’ source, format, purpose, open access options, etc.

Further information:

Horizon Europe Programme Guide: especially from page 40 onwards

All photos © Shutterstock


Author: Daniela Fichtenbauer, Consultant at RTDS Group

Date: 7th June 2023