Open Access

This is online access to scientific information for free to users. Details, publications and background related to Open Access

Open access (OA) can be defined as the practice of providing on-line access to scientific information that is free of charge to the user and that is re-usable. In the context of R&D, open access to 'scientific information' refers to two main categories:

  • Peer-reviewed scientific publications (primarily research articles published in academic journals)
  • Scientific research data: data underlying publications and/or other data (such as curated but unpublished datasets or raw data)

It is now widely recognised that making research results more accessible to all societal actors contributes to better and more efficient science, and to innovation in the public and private sectors The Commission therefore supports open access at the European level (in its framework programmes), at the Member States level and internationally.

Open Access in Horizon 2020

Peer-reviewed scientific publications

All projects receiving Horizon 2020 funding are required to make sure that any peer-reviewed journal article they publish is openly accessible, free of charge (article 29.2. Model Grant Agreement).

Research data

The Commission is running a pilot on open access to research data in Horizon 2020: the Open Research Data (ORD) pilot. This pilot takes into account the need to balance openness with the protection of scientific information, commercialisation and Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), privacy concerns, and security, as well as questions of data management and preservation. The pilot applies to research data underlying publications but beneficiaries can also voluntarily make other datasets open. Participating projects are required to develop a Data Management Plan, in which they will specify what data will be open. In previous work programmes, the ORD Pilot was limited to some specific areas of Horizon 2020. Starting with the 2017 work programme, however, the ORD pilot was extended to cover all thematic areas of Horizon 2020, thus realising the Commission's ambition of "open research data per default" (but allowing for opt-outs).

More information

For details of how open access applies to beneficiaries in projects funded under Horizon 2020, please see the Guidelines on Open Access to Scientific Publications and Research Data and/or the Guidelines on data management.


Working with the Member States

In 2012, the European Commission published a Recommendation on access to and preservation of scientific information encouraging all EU Member States to put publicly-funded research results in the public domain in order to strengthen science and the knowledge-based economy.

The document also asked each Member State to designate a National Point of Reference (NPR) with the task of 1) coordinating the measures listed in the Recommendation, 2) acting as an interlocutor with the Commission and 3) reporting on the follow-up.

You can follow the developments of open access at the European Commission in more detail on Twitter and on the website for the Digital Single Market.

» Chronology

The milestones in the development of the Commission's policies on open access and open science are highlighted below.


February 2016: Release of the NPR Report  PDF icon 1.1 MB . Based on the structure of Commission Recommendation C(2012) 4890 final and its assorted reporting mechanism (the National Points of Reference for scientific information) this report provides an overview on access to and preservation of scientific information in the EU Member States, as well as Norway and Turkey.


December 2015: The Commission takes first steps to broaden access to online content and outlines its vision to modernise EU copyright rules.  In particular, it will revise EU rules to make it easier for researchers to use Text and Data Mining (TDM) technologies to analyse large sets of data.  The press release refers to various documents, including the Communication – Towards a modern, more European copyright framework.  A more specific news alert about the Commission’s proposal for a research-friendly copyright for open science and innovation in Europe in available via this link.

October 2015: Workshop to collect information about the alternatives to Green and Gold open access, including how the alternatives work, how they have evolved, whether they work well, and what challenges they do not manage to tackle. The report synthesises the presentations and discussions. All the presentations given during the workshop are available via this link. Full recording is also available.

Horizon 2020 projects

  • FutureTDM (Reducing Barriers and Increasing Uptake of Text and Data Mining for Research Environments using a Collaborative Knowledge and Open Information Approach)
  • OpenMineTeD (Open Mining INfrastructure for TExt and Data)


July 2014: Launch of a public consultation in order to gauge the trend towards a more open, data-driven and people-focused way of doing research and innovation.

April 2014: The European Commission released an Expert Report on Text and Data Mining.

FP7 Projects:

  • FOSTER (Facilitate Open Science Training for European Research)
  • PASTEUR4OA (Open Access Policy Alignment Strategies for European Union Research)


December 2013: Launch of Horizon 2020 and related open access policies (See 'Special feature: Open Access in Horizon 2020')

December 2013: first meeting of the National Points of Reference nominated by Member States, as established by the Recommendation on access to and preservation of scientific information.

December 2013: launch of H2020 and related open access policies (See 'Special feature: Open Access in Horizon 2020').

October 2013: The European Commission released the Report on a public consultation on open research data held in July 2013 in Brussels.

August 2013: Open access to research publications reaching 'tipping point' was confirmed in a Study funded by the European Commission.

February 2013: The Competitiveness Council (Internal Market, Industry, Research and Space) met in February 2013 and held a Debate on open access. Member States supported the idea of developing broader and more rapid access to scientific publications. Moreover, ministers welcomed the Commission’s view that open access to scientific publications should be a general principle of Horizon 2020. The optimal circulation, access to and transfer of scientific knowledge is one of the objectives for the establishment of a genuine European Research Area.

January 2013: The European Economic and Social Committee released its Opinion on the Communication from the Commission on better access to scientific information.

FP7 Project:

  • RECODE (Policy Recommendations for Open Access to Research Data in Europe)


October 2012: The Commission clarified its policy with Frequently Asked Questions on open access to publications and data in Horizon 2020

July 2012: The European Commission outlined in a Communication measures to improve access to scientific information produced in Europe. Broader and more rapid access to scientific papers and data (while respecting legitimate commercial concerns) will make it easier for researchers and businesses to build on the findings of public-funded research. This will boost Europe's innovation capacity and give citizens quicker access to the benefits of scientific discoveries. In this way, it will give Europe a better return on its investment in research and innovation. The Commission has also recommended, in a formal Recommendation, that Member States take a similar approach to the results of research funded under their own domestic programmes (Read the press release).

Read the documents:

  • Communication ‘Towards better access to scientific information: Boosting the benefits of public investments in research’ (also in French and in German.)
  • Recommendation on access to and preservation of scientific information (also in other languages in the Official Journal of the European Union) and the Commission staff working document accompanying the Recommendation (Executive Summary of Impact Assessment and Impact Assessment)
  • Together, these two initiatives feed into the wider context of the Communication on a reinforced European Research Area partnership for excellence and growth, adopted on the same day (More on ‘optimal circulation, access to and transfer of scientific knowledge’ can be found here).

January 2012: The Commission released the Report on the online survey on scientific information in the digital age held from July-September 2011.

January 2012: Between May and August 2011, the Commission held a Survey on open access in FP7 among those projects participating to the Open Access Pilot in FP7.

FP7 projects:

  • MEDOANET (Mediterranean Open Access Network)
  • SERSCIDA (Support for Establishment of National/Regional Social Sciences Data Archives)


December 2011: The Commission collected answers to a questionnaire to EU Member State. The result is a Report on National Open Access and Preservation Policies in Europe that gives an overview of how open access was developing in the European Research Area. It shows that open access was backed by a growing number of universities, research centres and funding agencies across Europe, and it highlighted the dynamic growth of open access. It also underlined, however, that national initiatives and practices were still fragmented, thus preventing the European Union from realising its full research and innovation potential.

November 2011: The Commission clarified and summarized its proposal for open access in Horizon 2020.

July 2011: Launch of the public Consultation on scientific information in the digital age (Read above the report released in January 2012).

May 2011: The Commission organised a public Hearing on access to and preservation of scientific information (see also the agenda of the stakeholder meeting). A Meeting with Member States was organised on the following day.

May 2011: The European Commission adopted a Communication on a Single Market for Intellectual Property Rights ‘Boosting creativity and innovation to provide economic growth, high quality jobs and first class products and services in Europe’.

February 2011: The Commission organised a second strategic Workshop with EC-funded projects on scientific information in the digital age.


November 2010: The Commission organised a first strategic Workshop with national experts on open access and preservation in Europe.

October 2010: The Commission released the second Report of the European Research Area Board called ‘Realising the New Renaissance – Policy proposals for developing a world-class research and innovation space in Europe 2030’, which recommends open access to all outputs of publicly-funded research.

October 2010: The High Level Expert Group on Scientific Data presented its Report 'Riding the Wave’ to the European Commission (‘How Europe Can Gain From The Rising Tide of Scientific Data').

October 2010: The Europe 2020 Flagship Initiative Communication ‘Innovation Union’ introduced open access in its sections 2.2 (Delivering the European Research Area) and 3.3 (Promoting openness and capitalising on Europe's creative potential). Read the reference documents in all languages.

May 2010: The Europe 2020 Flagship Initiative Communication ‘A Digital Agenda for Europe’ introduced open access in its section 2.5.2 (Driving ICT innovation by exploiting the single market). Read the reference documents in all languages.

FP7 Projects:

  • APARSEN (Metadata for preservation, curation and interoperability)
  • ODE (Opportunities for Data Exchange)
  • OpenAIRE (Open Access Infrastructure for Research in Europe)
  • SISOB (An Observatorium for Science in Society based in Social Models)


October 2009: First Report of the European Research Area Board called ‘Preparing Europe for a New Renaissance: A Strategic View of the European Research Area’.

October 2009: The Commission organised a Conference in Brussels called 'Working Together to Strengthen Research in Europe – European Research Area. A session was organised 'Open access and preservation: how can knowledge sharing be improved in the ERA?'

June 2009: The Commission collected answers to a questionnaire to EU Member State via the Scientific and Technical Research Committee. The result was a Report on results that gives a snapshot of the situation in 2008.

June 2009: The Commission clarified the ‘paid’ open access reimbursement of publication costs in FP7 (see page 18, article II.16.4 'other activities').

FP7 Projects:

  • ACUMEN (Academic Careers Understood through Measurement and Norms)
  • NECOBELAC (Network of Collaboration between Europe and Latin American-Caribbean Countries)
  • SOAP (Study of Open Access Publishing by Key Stakeholders)


August 2008: The Commission launched the Open Access Pilot in FP7

July 2008: The Commission, together with the German Commission for UNESCO, published an Open Access Handbook. Translations in Romanian and Chinese followed later.

April 2008: The Commission adopted a Recommendation on the Management of intellectual property in knowledge transfer activities and code of practice for universities and other public research organisations

March 2008: The Presidency Conclusions, which launched the new cycle of the renewed Lisbon Strategy for Growth and Jobs 2008–2010, encouraged open access to knowledge and open innovation.

FP7 Projects:

  • CESSDA (Council of European Social Science Data Archives)
  • CLARIN (Common language resources and technology infrastructure)
  • DARIAH (Digital Research Infrastructure for the Arts & Humanities)
  • DRIVER II (Digital Repository Infrastructure Vision for European Research)
  • EUROVO-AIDA (Euro-VO Astronomical Infrastructure for Data Access)
  • OAPEN (Open Access Publishing in European Networks)
  • PARSE.Insight (Permanent Access to the Records of Science in Europe)
  • PEER (Pilot Programme Investigating the Effect of the Deposit of Author Manuscripts on the Ecology of European Research and Publishing)


December 2007: The ERC (European Research Council) published its first Scientific Council Guidelines for open access.

November 2007: The Council published its Conclusions on Scientific information in the digital age: access, dissemination and preservation.

September 2007: Following the closure of the public consultation on the ERA Green Paper (‘Investing our future together’), the Commission carried out an independent Analysis of the responses received for question 21 "Is there a need for EU-level policies and practices to improve and ensure open access to and dissemination of raw data and peer-reviewed publications from publicly funded research results?" which was one of the questions asked under the "Knowledge Sharing" section of the paper. This paper along with some other relevant documents was also presented at a Hearing in Brussels to a representative group of stakeholders.

February 2007: The Commission adopted the Communication on Scientific information in the digital age: access, dissemination and preservation (read it in other languages). Access the other documents: the press release, the memo (Frequently Asked Questions) and the Commission staff working document accompanying the Communication.

February 2007: The Commission hosted a Conference in Brussels on scientific publication issues called 'Scientific Publishing in the European Research Area'. The goal was to bring together stakeholders concerned with access, dissemination and preservation issues in connection with scientific publication and data in an effort to provide policy options for scientific publishing under FP7 and in the European Research Area. Both the Commissioner for Science and Research, Mr. Potočnik and the Commissioner for Information Society and Media, Ms. Reding took the floor at the event. Access the other documents: the opening speech by Janez Potočnik, EU Commissioner for Science and Research and the closing speech by Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media.

FP7 Projects:

  • COMMUNIA (Thematic Network on the Public Domain in the Digital Environment)
  • ELIXIR (European life science infrastructure for biological information)


December 2006: The European Research Advisory Board (EURAB) released its final Report ‘Scientific Publication – Policy on open access’.

December 2006: The ERC (European Research Council) released the Scientific Council Statement on open access.

June 2006: A public consultation on the EC-commissioned study on the economic and technical evolution of the scientific publication markets in Europe  PDF icon 805 KB was held from March-June 2006. It raised considerable interest from all concerned stakeholder groups. Responses were received from individual researchers, academic organisations, libraries and information organisations, and publishers. Many of the respondents welcomed the study and its recommendations, while the publishers responding to the study were critical (read the Synthesis report  PDF icon 71 KB ). This study marked the first contribution to the current policy debate on the functioning and efficiency of the scientific publication system.


» Background

This background note (PDF icon 356 KB) provides more information on open access to scientific publications and research data at the EU and the Member States level.