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Open Science essential for new Horizon Europe funding programme

7th May 2019News, Open Access, Open Data, Open Science

SPARC Europe is pleased with the endorsement, on April 17, by the European Parliament (EP) of the Political Partial Agreement on Horizon Europe, the next research and innovation framework programme. Back in March 2019, the EP and Council of the European Union had reached a provisional agreement as part of the trilogue process. That agreement was approved by the Council on April 15. With that vote, European legislators demonstrated that they stand “behind the idea to keep the EU at the forefront of global research and innovation,” said Carlos Moedas, Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, in an online statement. This agreement sends a strong signal about the importance of science and innovation for the future of Europe and shows Europe’s potential to lead in the promotion of Open Science and Open Access policies.

What is Horizon Europe?

The Framework Programme on Horizon Europe (FP9) is a €100 billion funding programme initially presented in June 2018  by the European Commission to support research and innovation, replacing Horizon 2020. Planned to run from 2021 to 2027, it aims to reinforce Europe’s competitive position in the global landscape of research and innovation in areas including climate research, security, healthcare and other sectors. It is to play a key complementary role to national research funding and demonstrate the value that European cooperation can create.

How does Horizon Europe support Open Science?

Thanks in part to the unremitting efforts of SPARC Europe —together with EUA, LIBER, and IFLA and representing university, library, research and cultural heritage communities— the EP agreed to adopt the principle of “fostering open science and ensuring visibility to the public and open access to scientific publications and research data, including appropriate exceptions,” as stated in Article 2(h). Likewise, Annex I of the Programme states that: “Horizon Europe will provide dedicated support for open access to scientific publications, to knowledge repositories and other data sources.”

This agreement is good news for researchers, practitioners, SMEs, industry and wider society, and paves the way to making Open Science the modus operandi of Horizon Europe. SPARC Europe is convinced that Open Science principles can increase the impact of European research, promote collaboration and innovation, and lead to higher returns on investments for Horizon Europe.

SPARC Europe very much welcomes the European Commission, European Parliament and European Council’s commitment to Open Science in the final text of the Programme and Regulation of Horizon Europe. In the first instance, the HE Programme’s overall objective states fostering open science and ensuring visibility to the public and open access to scientific publications and research data, including appropriate exceptions – something we underlined from the outset. We also very much applaud the Regulation’s general requirement to make Horizon Europe’s research results (both articles and data) Open Access, and that it promotes and encourages other open science practices to ensure increased access to publicly funded work. The regulation goes further to state The work programme may provide for additional incentives or obligations to adhere to open science practices which clearly underlines the importance of Open Science to Horizon Europe. The Programme also lists a range of reward and recognition mechanisms for researchers to spur actions for “promoting the adoption of open science practices, responsible R&I”. This will help change the current cultural practice of communicating research and adopting open science practices.

The Regulation also calls on other third countries or funders related to the programme to promote and encourage open science.

On a more practical level, since retaining author rights is crucial to enable OA to research, we are pleased with the addition “beneficiaries shall ensure that they or the authors retain sufficient intellectual property rights to comply with their open access requirements although we would have liked to have had the words by retaining the copyright to their work” included for clarity in the implementation phase.  In addition, we highly appreciate that our new insertion – to add data management plans as an eligible cost – has also been adopted.

As far as policy related to access to research data is concerned, we welcome it that the text asks for research data to be FAIR and made ‘as open as possible, as closed as necessary’. However, although SPARC Europe recognizes that not all data can be made openly accessible (e.g. in the interest of data protection rules, confidentiality, trade secrets), we are disappointed that exceptions to sharing data  do not need to be clearly specified or justified as we recommended since this would have done more to prevent any unwarranted opt-outs from sharing research data.

We have also pushed for the preservation of research data in view of the threats posed by technological obsolescence and loss of data. We are grateful that the Horizon Europe Regulation calls on Member States to facilitate the preservation of documents, although its mandate for implementation could have been made more explicit since it is worded:  “Attention shall also be paid to the long-term preservation of data”.

In summary, Horizon Europe’s commitment to Open Science and Open Access consistently and throughout its Programme and Regulation, demonstrates Europe’s leadership in Open Science by Europe’s largest public funder and thereby makes a vital contribution towards changing European practice in scholarly communication.  

Next Steps

Although the agreement is a positive achievement, the budgetary aspects and some related horizontal provisions such as the international association of the Horizon Europe programme (including participation of non-EU countries, e.g. possibly post-Brexit UK) are outstanding. Funding for Horizon Europe is thus subject to the overall agreement on the EU’s next long-term budget (2021-2027), proposed by the Commission in May 2018. While the agreement allows the Commission to start preparing for the programme’s launch, the final legislation will only be adopted once the EU 2021-2027 budget is agreed by the EP, after the elections in May 2019. The EP’s Legal Affairs Committee (JURI) will also have to vote on the relationship of Horizon Europe with EU treaties. 

SPARC Europe looks forward to continuing to promote the principles of Open Access and Open Science in the lead-up to Horizon Europe’s official start in 2021. SPARC Europe will make use of opportunities to ensure that these principles become standard practice in Europe’s research and innovation sector.

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