Why Open Science Is Here to Stay

Openness is one of the defining characteristics of modern science and scholarship. The idea that there should be some secret esoteric knowledge reserved for initiates has long been banished from serious research and survives only in some non-academic fringe groups. Even research in industrial R&D facilities is now routinely published, if only in the form of patent applications. The one major and sad exception is of course some military and security research, and there are also a small number of cases where fully open science is not appropriate, for example, in environmental research to protect endangered species or in medical research to protect patient confidentiality.

The fundamental concept is noble and powerful. Ideas, theories, and their supporting intellectual frameworks should constitute a common good of all humanity, freely shared for our mutual enjoyment and benefit. This concept is anchored in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states, in article 27.1 that “Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.” This framing of science as a cultural activity from which nobody is excluded and to which everyone can contribute, and from which everyone can benefit without in any way reducing the benefit available to others, defines it as what economists term a pure public good.


“Ideas, theories, and their supporting intellectual frameworks should constitute a common good of all humanity, freely shared for our mutual enjoyment and benefit.”


The reality however is different. Large parts of scholarly publication have been captured by commercial bodies whose primary interest is shareholder value and not the common good. The sharing of data is partial, inconsistent, and inadequately resourced. Science is too often confused with innovation and valued only for its immediate utility. Openness is paid lip service, but is often not properly rewarded in research evaluations, funding decisions and career progression. If we want open science to realise its full potential, there is an urgent need to reform processes and attitudes as well as to invest in sustainable infrastructures and organisations to support it. The necessity of such change has been dramatically brought home by the COVID-19 pandemic, where the traditional structures of science have been exposed as too slow and sclerotic to deal with a rapidly changing scientific and policy landscape.


“The necessity of such a change (towards open science) has been dramatically brought home by the COVID-19 pandemic, where the traditional structures of science have been exposed as too slow and sclerotic to deal with a rapidly changing scientific and policy landscape.”


At the same time, however, we have to recognise that many features of the traditional system are there for good reasons, and that moving to a more open and agile system is not without risk. Managing change in a complicated and interconnected system is challenging and raises many issues, some legal, some ethical, some practical as well as more philosophical ones concerning the purpose, nature and conduct of scholarship itself. It is vital that the academic community actively participates in discussing these issues using the full range of analytic tools developed in our various disciplines as well as our lived experience as researchers.

Europe is not unique in this regard, and science being universal, this discussion has to be cognisant of the global context. However, it is also the case that some issues have a special salience within the European context. For all these reasons, ALLEA feels that it is appropriate to establish a special task force on Open Science to address these challenges, to allow ALLEA to respond in a coherent and timely manner to developments, and to amplify the voice of the European academies within this global debate.


Luke Drury, Chair of the ALLEA Open Science Task Force and ALLEA Board Member.


European Open Science Cloud needs improved legal and technical foundations to go global

ALLEA welcomes in a new statement the progress of the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC) and highlights its great potential to accelerate the transition towards open science. The document presents a set of legal instruments and technical considerations which aim to reinforce the sustainability of EOSC. 

Data are vital resources for research and technological development and the lifeblood of artificial intelligence. Deploying EOSC, an open platform of research tools, infrastructures and procedures for data and research sharing across borders and scientific disciplines, can significantly foster knowledge exchange and facilitate the quicker uptake of scientifically informed policies to tackle major societal challenges like climate change or health threats. 

Such an ambitious and wide-ranging endeavour can only succeed with appropriate legal and technical instruments which ensure an encouraging research environment for individual researchers and high-risk research investments in today’s global and competitive world.   

“The deployment of the European Open Science Cloud is clearly needed for accelerating the sharing of data and research results within the scientific community in Europe and beyond. Together with other measures favouring open science, this will help to find fact-based responses to major societal challenges such as fighting the spread of coronavirus. Interoperability with other data clouds should be ensured, and, where necessary, reciprocity of access or other conditions could be required to promote the progress of science while supporting investments in research”, says Alain Strowel, Chair of the Permanent Working Group Intellectual Property Rights. 

IPR and strategic considerations

ALLEA was amongst the first endorsers of the EOSC declaration in 2017 and since then has closely monitored deliberations and developments regarding its implementation. This statement points to still unaddressed questions especially in the area of Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs). It also advocates that the Rules of Participation (RoP) should further define access conditions in line with the EOSC principles to make the cloud “as open as possible and as closed as necessary”.  

Those regulations should set proportionate limitations in “duly justified cases” of IPR concerns, national security, and alike. In particular, the statement notes that the current RoP only consider ‘copyright’ as a category of IPRs and disregards patents, the most important tool for protecting research inventions, and for incentivising and securing high-risk investments in research and development, both in the public and private sectors. 

ALLEA’s statement presents necessary considerations to establish a solid legal and technical framework for an effective and sustainable open science cloud, including among others: 

  • Aoverall legal design that ensures reciprocity of access for participating researchers submitting data according to the EOSC RoP and to EOSC compliant users of data stored elsewhere. 
  • Interoperability with other regional data clouds which also promote interoperability and development of common global standards enabling scholarship and science to be shared as public goods for the benefit of all. 
  • Staggered security regulations as regards data and processes, with due consideration of all relevant aspects (i.e. machines, tools, people), while different requirements, depending on the security level, must also be foreseen. 
  • Open source should be promoted as a standard to ensure security.  
  • Licensing models should be harmonised so that detrimental effects of different types of open source licences are mitigated.  
  • Data should be stored, unless it is proven impossible, on servers and equipment operated in Europe and subject to EU rules. 


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The Future of Research: Assessing the impact of Plan S

Impacts of Plan S on researchers, research-intensive institutions, societies and publishers were debated at an international symposium organised by Academia Europea Cardiff Knowledge Hub and KU Leuven Libraries.

The event took place in Leuven on 5 and 6 November. An audience of around 130 gathered at the historic Leuven Institute for Ireland in Europe. ALLEA was represented by its Board Member Luke Drury, who underlined some of the key points introduced by the ALLEA statement on Plan S.

ALLEA’s work was also presented to the participants at an exhibition accompanying the event. The materials were in high demand from the audience, especially ALLEA’s statement on Plan S. SAPEA, the project on science advice for policy that ALLEA is involved in, also exhibited its materials.

A more detailed report on the event is available on the website of Academia Europaea.

ALLEA discusses Plan S at the Open Science Fair 2019

The 2019 Open Science Fair in Porto held on 16 to 18 September, featured a panel discussion on Plan S, the open access plan initiated by coalition of European funders to make all publicly funded-research open access from 2021.

On behalf of European academies and the academic community, ALLEA Board Member Luke Drury provided some insights on the current status of the project and underlined some of the key points introduced by the ALLEA statement on this matter.

The lively debate, chaired and facilitated by Inge van Nieuwerburgh (Ghent University), brought together various perspectives from national funding agencies, the so-called “Coalition S” and young researchers represented by Koen Vermeir, Chair of the Global Young Academy. The discussion focused on the need to include repositories and new publications models in order to avoid a continuation of the existing journal system.

The current status of Plan S was presented by Neil Jacobs, the interim programme manager for Plan S, who emphasised that there are, and always have been, multiple routes to compliance for Plan S and not only Gold Open Access. This model requires authors to publish their articles in an online open access journal in contrast to Green Open Access which allows for publishing in an a repository at the same time than releasing the research in non-open access journal.

The presentations from the event are available here.

Picture Credit: OSF

Disrupting the Scientific Publishing System? Plan S and the Future of Open Access

The open access initiative Plan S has rekindled the debate on the future of open access and pushed the European research community to renew its commitment to a transition towards a fully open science system. ALLEA joined the discussion with the expertise of its working groups and elaborated an initial response to shift the focus of the initiative for the benefit of science and society. The debate is far from close and many ethical, legal and disciplinary considerations are still on the table. We asked ALLEA working groups’ chairs about some of the most relevant aspects of the future of open access.

We need to look at more than sticks and carrots – an analysis of conditions and infrastructures promoting high quality research is essential.


Göran Hermerén, Chair of the ALLEA Permanent Working Group Science and Ethics

Question: The past year has seen some great strides in the advancement of open access. Your working group has contributed both to addressing ethical considerations in general as well as those within Plan S. Do you think that we are now on the right path to achieving a good, ethically fair system of open access?

Göran Hermerén: Yes, on the whole. But more work on the implementation of open access remains to be done – including comprehensive dialogue with different stakeholders. This will take some time, but it is important, since the challenges, needs and publication habits vary among various disciplines. Care must be taken that countries and research institutions with less economic resources are not disfavoured. The role of the funding agencies is crucial, since they can impose conditions for their financial support of research projects.

Q.: ALLEA’s response to Plan S stressed the need for a corresponding reform of the research evaluation system. Where do you stand on this issue and what do you think is important to consider in any such reform?

G.H.: At our next meeting we will plan an activity focusing precisely on this. In the evaluation of research performance it is important to consider not only commonly used metrics that are thought to drive poor behaviour, such as journal impact factor, citation rates or even just numbers of publications, but take a broader view of approaches and incentives that could be used to promote research integrity and good scientific practice. Some metrics are required but these will need to be supplemented by other considerations such as the quality of the research (idea or output) and its potential to have beneficial societal or economic impacts in the longer term. The San Francisco DORA declaration is an important document in this debate. This also means we need to look at more than sticks and carrots –an analysis of conditions and infrastructures promoting high quality research is essential.

In the answers to both questions it will be important to keep an eye on unintended consequences of well-meaning proposals, and realise that what may work or even work well in one country or discipline might not work (or work well) in others.


Natalie Harrower, Chair of the ALLEA Working Group E Humanities

Question: While Plan S is putting a focus on open access to scientific publications your working group’s activities also include the broader context of open science and open data. What principles do you recommend should be followed here and how could they best be implemented?

Natalie Harrower: The movement towards greater openness, transparency, and widespread access to scientific research and the multiple products of that research has been grouped under the broader concept or movement known as ‘open science’. In terms of research transparency, integrity, acceleration and the democratisation of access to knowledge, open science as a movement is nothing less than revolutionary, and it should be broadly welcomed and supported at all levels.

Alongside the movement towards open access to scientific publications is the movement towards opening access to the research data that enables the findings detailed in these publications. Researchers should now turn their attention to following the FAIR principles (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reproducible) in data management, and seek guidance on how to create a data management plan (DMP) as early as possible in the research process (i.e. when preparing grant applications, or before undertaking a new programme of research). Researchers, and research support staff, should make themselves aware of any national policies on open science/open research/open scholarship, and can turn to funding agencies, research offices, academic libraries, or European sources for specific guidance. Umbrella organisations working to support and enable better research data sharing include the Research Data Alliance, CODATA, and Science Europe.


Researchers should now turn their attention to following the FAIR principles in data managament, and seek guidance on how to create a data management plan as early as possible in the research process.

Joseph Straus, Chair of the ALLEA Permanent Working Group Intellectual Property Rights

Question: Open access may generate conflicts with some aspects of the patenting system. One of the recommendations of the ALLEA Permanent Working Group Intellectual Property Rights refers to the need to adopt a grace period in Europe. Why is such a measure necessary and how should Plan S take into account this demand?

Joseph Straus: It may first be recalled that under the European Patent Convention and the patent laws of the EU Member States novelty destroying state of the art is everything which has been made available to the public in any way prior to the filing of the patent application. In other words, also own publications of the inventor him/herself constitute such a prior art.
In a number of countries, such as Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Japan and the United States, to name but a few, the institute of a so-called grace period exists, which enables the inventor, or his/her successor in title, to apply for a patent within a certain period of time (six or twelve months) from the publication date and enjoy immunity against their own publications.
Although all inventors and their research institutions have to be careful in allowing publication of research results prior to the filing of a patent application, inventors, especially from academic institutions, publish their research results without an adequate control as regards their patentability and potential commercial exploitation, and thus deprive themselves and their employers, eventually also the tax payers in case of publicly funded institutions, of any property rights in such research results.


Since the Plan S puts pressure on early publication of research results, the lack of grace period in the European patent law (s) will obviously aggravate the situation of European scientists/researchers and put them at even greater disadvantage as compared with their colleagues overseas.

ALLEA has since the 1990s repeatedly, but in vain, advocated in favour of an introduction of a grace period in the European Patent Convention and the patent laws of the EU Member States. For that purpose representatives of ALLEA met even the responsible EU Commissioner, and on different occasions also other representatives. It should be emphasised that because of intricacies of patent law, often, even a timely filed patent application does not adequately protect the inventor and his/her research institutions as regards the follow-on research.
In any case, a prudent handling of publication activities results, on the one hand in some delay of publication and still does not offer the necessary legal certainty. Since Plan S evidently puts pressure on early publication of research results and on open access to them, the lack of a grace period in the European patent law(s) will obviously aggravate the situation of European scientists/researchers and put them at an even greater disadvantage as compared with their colleagues overseas.


This interview was originally conducted for and published in ALLEA’s Annual Report 2018/2019

Revised Plan S principles and implementation guidelines published

Plan S, the initiative to transition the scientific publishing system towards open access, was updated and postponed for a year. Its initiators, the cOAlition S, an international consortium of research funding organisations, have published a revision of its principles and implementation guidelines, taking onboard the feedback received by ALLEA and other stakeholder organisations. The update extends the envisaged starting date by one year until 2021. Affected researchers and scientific organisations will now have more time to adapt to the new open access policy requirements.

ALLEA’s initial statement published in December 2018

ALLEA supports open access as a major step towards realising the universality of science. In response to the first proposal of Plan S in 2018, the federation published an initial statement assessing key aspects that need to be taken into consideration in order to prevent unintended consequences in the scientific publishing sector and the research evaluation system. The revised version of the plan explicitly praises the work of ALLEA in this regard and calls for continued dialogue with the academic community.

According to cOAlition S, the revised Plan S maintains the fundamental principles:

  • No scholarly publication should be locked behind a paywall;
  • Open access should be available immediately i.e. without embargoes;
  • Full open access is implemented by the default use of a Creative Commons Attribution CC BY license as per the Berlin Declaration;
  • Funders commit to cover open access publication fees at a reasonable level;
  • Funders will not support publication in hybrid (or mirror/sister) journals unless they are part of a transformative arrangement with a clearly defined endpoint.

But a number of important changes are proposed in the implementation guidance:

  • In order to provide more time for researchers and publishers to adapt to the changes under Plan S, the timeline has been extended by one year to take effect in 2021;
  • Transformative agreements will be supported until 2024;
  • More options for transitional arrangements (transformative agreements, transformative model agreements, ‘transformative journals’) are supported;
  • Greater clarity is provided about the various compliance routes: Plan S is NOT just about a publication fee model of open access publishing. cOAlition S supports a diversity of sustainability models for open access journals and platforms;
  • More emphasis is put on changing the research reward and incentive system: cOAlition S funders explicitly commit to adapt the criteria by which they value researchers and scholarly output;
  • The importance of transparency in open access publication fees is emphasised in order to inform the market and funders’ potential standardisation and capping of payments of such fees;
  • The technical requirements for open access repositories have been revised.

The summary was extracted from the cOAlition S rationale for the revisions.


Opening up the dialogue

In the beginning of this year, ALLEA also submitted recommendations to the consultation on the implementation guidelines. ALLEA President Antonio Loprieno met in Brussels with Robert-Jan Smits, Open Access Envoy of the European Commission, and Marc Schiltz, President of Science Europe, to discuss the next steps of Plan S.

Seeking to build a constructive dialogue within the research community on the future of Open Access, ALLEA has worked with its Member Academies to spur the debate on the topic. For instance, the Royal Irish Academy and the Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences of Barcelona have organised public events to promote a better understanding of the implications of Plan S for individual researchers, scientific organisations and publishers.