Open Access Mandates in EU Projects

The Key Takeaways from This Article are


Many research funding organisations now oblige grant recipients to provide open access to the published results of the research that they fund, and in some cases lay down very concrete guidelines for the implementation of this mandate.


Numerous funding organisations provide researchers with financial support for publication costs that may arise when publishing works open access.


There are also programmes that promote open access in a targeted manner.

Funders and Their Requirements

Research funding organisations play a key role in science and academia. In many disciplines, research would be practically impossible without their support. Whereas in Germany, research funders do not mandate open access, some funding organisations in other countries lay down compulsory guidelines for the provision of open access to published outputs that arise from their funding. Pioneers in this regard include, for example, Wellcome Trust (UK) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH; USA).

Where research funders mandate that open access must be provided to research results and publications arising from their funding, they may:

  • mandate that research data or scientific publications resulting from funded projects be made freely available to the public (if applicable, subject to an embargo period), at least in a repository;
  • set maximum limits for embargo periods, or mandate that embargo periods should not be observed.

Most public-sector research funders expect grant holders to publish outputs that arise from the research that they fund in gold open access venues, or to self-archive the publications in open access repositories after an embargo period (green open access). They frequently require that open licences be used. 

Researchers are advised to compare the guidelines of the funding organisation with those of the publisher, and, in the event of uncertainties, to make enquiries as soon as possible. Many funders have open access policies in which they adopt a clear position. As a rule, these policies also specify concrete funding conditions. Useful information about research funders’ open access policies is provided by Sherpa Juliet. In the case of minor discrepancies between the open access policies of the funder and the publisher, authors should contact the publisher. In the case of major discrepancies, alternative publication venues should be considered.

In the following, the open access guidelines and funding programmes of leading research funders are outlined. Policy positions on open access at the (supra-)national level can be found on our Policy Frameworks page.

Practical Tip

Here you can find the slides of the Open Access Talk Funding requirements on Open Access - what to consider? (in German)

cOAlition S & Plan S

Video on Plan S and Funding

Launched in 2018, cOAlition S pursues with Plan S a strategy of ensuring open access to scholarly publications arising from publicly funded research. With effect from 2021, scholarly publications resulting from research funded by organisations participating in cOAlition S must be published in open access journals or on open access platforms, or made immediately available without embargo through open access repositories (Rücknagel, 2021).

The initiative is built around the 10 Principles of Plan S, which are binding for all projects funded by organisations participating in cOAlition S. The main principles are (Rücknagel, 2021):

  • Authors or their institutions retain the rights in their publications.
  • Publications must be made openly available immediately and under an open licence, preferably a Creative Commons Attribution licence (CC BY).
  • Where applicable, the open access publication fees are covered by the research institutions or funding organisations, not by the authors.
  • Publishers’ pricing is fair and transparent.
  • Hybrid publishing is not financially supported unless transformative arrangements exist.
  • Funders shall assess the intrinsic merit of the research work, not the reputation of the publication channel.

The cOAlition S Journal Checker Tool can be used to check whether an open access journal is compliant with Plan S.

The most well-known organisations participating in cOAlition S are:

  • European Commission
  • Austrian Science Fund (FWF)
  • Agence nationale de la recherche (ANR)
  • Research Council of Norway (RCN)
  • World Health Organization (WHO)

The German Research Foundation (DFG) and the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) have declared their support for cOAlition S but have not adopted Plan S.

European Commission

In the EU framework programme for research and innovation Horizon 2020 (2014–2020), the European Commission already required funding recipients to ensure open access to research outputs resulting from funded projects. This stipulation has been retained by the successor programme, Horizon Europe (2021–2027). The European Commission offers funding beneficiaries an open access publishing service, Open Research Europe (ORE), at no cost to them. Preprints submitted to ORE undergo comprehensive prepublication checks to ensure that all policies and ethical standards have been adhered to. After publication, the articles undergo open peer review. The post-prints of articles that pass peer review are sent to major indexing databases and repositories. Further details of the procedure can be found here.

An overview of Horizon Europe’s framework conditions in relation to open access can be found in the programme's factsheet on open science. Besides ensuring immediate open access to scientific publica­tions, funding recipients are required to manage research data as far as possible in line with the FAIR Principles – under certain circumstances some degree of closed access will be tolerated. Within the framework of the Model Grant Agreement (European Commission, 2021, pp. 108–109), the following requirements apply to peer-reviewed scientific publications relating to the results of funded research:

  • At the latest at the time of publication, a machine-readable electronic copy of the published version or the final manuscript accepted for publication must be deposited in a trusted repository (see OpenDOAR).
  • Immediate open access must be provided to publications under a CC BY licence or a licence with equivalent rights. For monographs and other long-text formats, the licence may exclude commercial uses and derivative works (e.g. CC BY-NC, CC BY-ND).
  • Information must be given via the repository about any research output or any other tools needed to validate the conclusions of the scientific publication.

Moreover, funding beneficiaries (or authors) must retain sufficient intel­lectual property rights. Metadata of deposited publications must be made openly accessible under a CC 0 licence or a licence with equivalent rights. Further information on this topic – and on the framework condi­tions for research data management – can be found on pages 108–109 of the Model Grant Agreement (European Commission, 2021).

Publication fees will be reimbursed under the following conditions (European Commission, 2021, p. 109):

  • The work must be published in a fully open access publication venue.
  • The publication venue must fulfil open access publication standards (licensing, peer review).

The European Commission supports several projects on open access and open science, such as OpenAIRE, the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC), and HIRMEOS. The catch-all data repository Zenodo, among other things, was created within the framework of OpenAIRE.

Practical Tip

Here you can find the slides of the Open Access Talk Open Access requirements in EU projects (in German)

German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)

With its new Guidelines for Promoting Projects to Accelerate the Transition to Open Access (BMBF, 2020), the BMBF is strengthening the establishment of open access as a standard model of scholarly publishing in Germany. The aim is to accelerate the transition to open access within the framework of a national open access strategy, and to ensure that, by 2025, 70% of all newly published scholarly publications will be exclusively published open access or additionally made available to the public in open access.

Open access is not mandatory – the decision remains in the hands of the BMBF-funded researchers. However, funding recipients are encouraged to provide gold or green open access to the results of BMBF-funded research.

Publication costs that arise when publishing works open access may be covered from project funds or included in the project proposal. Thus, for publications during the lifetime of the project, the financing of publica­tion costs that arise when publishing works open access is assured.

The Post-Grant Fund reimburses publication costs incurred when publishing results of completed BMBF-funded projects (BMBF, 2017). The approval period may not date back more than three years. Moreover, con­tributions must be published under a licence that grants at least a cost-free, worldwide right to read the work in electronic form and to re­produce, disseminate, and make it available to the public (Rücknagel, 2021). 

The BMBF is currently supporting 20 projects related to the transition to open access.

German Research Foundation (DFG)

The DFG signed the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities in 2003. For the purpose of scientifically adequate communication, the DFG requests researchers in receipt of DFG funding to either publish project results directly in peer-reviewed and/or renowned open access journals or on open access platforms, or to deposit their articles in disciplinary or institutional open access repositories, if possible without delay, in addition to traditional publication by a publisher (German Research Foundation, 2021, pp. 42–43). 

Although the DFG supports cOAlition S, it has not made open access mandatory to date.

The DFG offers the following funding options to support the financing of publication costs:

Within the framework of the funding programme Infrastructures for Scholarly Publishing, the DFG supports projects relating to open access. The funding programme has three focus areas:

  • Structures for Transitioning to Open Access
  • Open Access Infrastructures
  • Digital Publishing

Moreover, within the framework of this programme, proposals may be sub­mitted for projects that aim to set up or further develop an individu­al open access journal or to convert an existing journal to open access.

Austrian Science Fund (FWF)

The Austrian Science Fund (FWF) is also a signatory of the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities. Moreover, it is a participant in cOAlition S. Hence, researchers are required to provide open access to peer-reviewed research outputs that result in part or in full from projects funded by the FWF.

Three open access publishing options are available (Rücknagel, 2021):

  • Publication in an open access publication venue
  • Publication in a transformative open access publication venue
  • Self-archiving of the accepted manuscript under a CC BY licence or an equivalent open licence on the date of publication. In exceptional cases, a CC BY-ND licence may be used, but this must be approved by the FWF.

Up to three years after completion of a project, applications can be sub­mitted for funding to cover the costs of of peer-reviewed publications.

The publication venue must fulfil the following requirements (Rücknagel, 2021):

Since 2019, the FWF expects research data on which scholarly publica­tions resulting from FWF-funded projects are based to be made available in open access in line with the FAIR Principles. In the case of all other research data, the provision of open access is at the discretion of the principal investigator. Where open access is mandatory, the research data should be published under a CC BY licence or an equivalent open licence as soon as possible – at the latest, together with the correspon­ding scholarly publication. Should open access to research data not be possible, this must be justified.

The FWF promotes stand-alone publications, including "new formats such as apps, wiki-based publications, annotated scientific databases". The establishment or modernisation of scholarly journals is promoted with the aim of meeting the minimum requirements of Plan S.

Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF)

The Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) is a signatory of the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities and supports Plan S (Philipp, 2018). It requires grantees to provide open access to the results of SNSF-funded research because "research findings funded with public money belong to the public". Therefore, "everyone should be able to access them electronically and free of charge".

Researchers may choose between green or gold open access. Hybrid publications also fulfil the SNSF’s open access requirement. However, in contrast to gold open access publications, the costs of publishing in hybrid journals are not covered by the SNSF. Funding Guidelines describe the various options and the procedure for complying with the SNSF’s open access mandate.

Via the SNSF’s open access platform (mySNF), authors can apply for funding to cover the costs of gold open access publishing. In this connection, the SNSF recommends that authors check whether their journal of choice is listed in the DOAJ. If this is the case, the SNSF’s open access requirement is automatically fulfilled.

If authors choose green open access, journal articles must be made avail­able to the public in a repository six months at the latest after publica­tion; for books and book chapters, the maximum embargo period is 12 months. The self-archived version should be at least the author’s accep­ted manuscript (with the changes made after peer review but without the publisher’s layout). It must be deposited in a repository that allows permanent, cost-free access. In the event that the publisher stipulates a longer embargo period than that permitted by the SNSF, the above-mentioned Guidelines suggest a standard email for contacting publi­shers. The Guidelines also include the requirements that repositories must fulfil, and a list of approved institutional repositories.

The SNSF also has a programme that finances the publication of open access books.

Volkswagen Foundation

The Volkswagen Foundation supports open access in principle and "expects the research results funded by it not only to be published in the traditional print media but also to be made available on the internet via open access" (Volkswagen Foundation, 2021, p. 7). Embargo periods of between six and 12 months are possible (Rücknagel, 2021).

Researchers can apply for earmarked funds to cover article processing charges (APCs) or book processing charges (BPC). With regard to the quality requirements that journals and book publishers must fulfil, it should be noted that (Volkswagen Foundation, 2018):

  • journals must be listed in the DOAJ;
  • in the case of monographs, the chosen publisher should be listed in the DOAB or be an OASPA member.

A further prerequisite for the reimbursement of publication costs is that persistent identifiers (e.g. DOIs) and metadata should be assigned and the most open CC licence possible should be granted. Moreover, the Volkswagen Foundation recommends that authors retain their rights to exploit their works (Volkswagen Foundation, 2018). 

The Foundation supports the sustainable storage of research data from the projects that it funds and the provision of open access to these data in line with the FAIR Principles. Funding applicants are requested to submit a data management plan together with their proposals. Further information on research data, as well as on open source programmes that arise in the context of projects funded by the Foundation, can be found in the Foundation guidelines (Volkswagen Foundation, 2018).


Further Reading