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Open access requirements of research funding institutions

Scientific research is financed to a large extent via project funding by third-party funding. Once the project funding phase has ended, the funding institutions or third-party funding providers expect its results to be published. However, the conditions attached to publication in the case of funding as well as the financial resources available for publication vary greatly, depending on the third-party funding provider. On the following pages you will find an overview of the publication support and conditions of the three largest and most relevant third-party funding bodies in the German research area, the German Research Foundation (DFG), the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the European Union (EU).

Research results that have been produced on the basis of funding from the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG) should be published (in accordance with the DFG guidelines for use, the so called "Verwendungsrichtlinien"). The DFG encourages researchers to publish their results in Open Access, but does not stipulate any obligation to publish in this way.

With its funding porgram Open Access Publication Funding, the DFG supports the publication of scientific content in freely accessible and reusable form on a large scale. The corresponding funds are applied for by scientific institutions, such as universities, and not by individuals. The institutions then manage the third-party funds, e.g. in the form of publication funds; any scientist at the respective institution can apply for funding from these funds. Scientific journal articles are eligible for funding, even if they are not the result of DFG-funded research. Contratry to books, which are only eligible for funding through the Open Access Publication Funding program if they are the result of DFG-funded research. For books that are not the result of such funding the DFG Publication Grants program is available. The funding conditions of the four institutions involved in BerlinUP can be found on the respective pages of the publication funds (see link list).

In addition to the large-scale funding guideline, it is also possible to apply for open access publication funding for individual research projects. Here, the DFG pays a lump sum of 750 € per year. If the publication costs of individual articles exceed this amount, it is also possible to reallocate material or personnel funds and use them to cover the publication costs. Before you use your third-party funds, you should seek advice from your university library or BerlinUP to check whether there are co-financing options or cheaper alternatives.

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The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, BMBF) has formulated its Open Access goals in its own strategy. It explicitly promotes the establishment of Open Access as a standard in science, supporting both the golden and the green road. Similar to the DFG, the publication of research results in Open Access is favored, but not mandatory.

However, the Ministry is somewhat more specific when it comes to funding individual research projects from its funds. Again, the publication in an Open Access journal is not obligate - however, if a publication was first published in closed access, self archiving, i. e. green open access, is mandatory, after the embargo period has expired.

In order to facilitate the initial publication in Open Access, it is possible to apply for open access publication costs simultaneously. This ensures that the publication costs are covered for the entire duration of the project. Fore research results that are published after the funding phase has ended, a post-grand-fund is available. Here, open access publication costs of up to 2000 € can be applied for, for articles presenting results that were produced as part of a completed BMBF project. Note that the project may not have been completed more than three years previously.

In addition to funding publication costs as part of individual research projects, the BMBF also supports structured funding projects that are genuinely conceptualized to establish and expand open access publication structures.

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The great importance of open science and, in particular, open access at European level is made clear by the fact that the European Council 2023 has once again expressed its views on the topic with the paper "Council conclusions on high-quality, transparent, open, trustworthy and equitable scholarly publishing". It not only reiterates its commitment to the goals of open science, but also explicitly advocates scholarly owned publication infrastructures based at scientific institutions. In addition, the European member states are called upon to provide funding for long-term reusable and openly accessible infrastructures.

Funding for scientific projects under the EU's Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe funding programs is mandatory linked to the open access publication of results.The EU is going one step further than the DFG and the BMBF by making open access to the research it funds not optional, but mandatory in its own funding guidelines. For projects funded by Horizon 2020, this sufficiently fulfilled by self archiving after a maximum of six months, or twelve months in the humanities and social sciences. However, since the funding from the successor project Horizon Europe, publication via the green route is no longer sufficient. Since then, research results must be published directly and without delay in a freely accessible and reusable form. Publication under free licenses is therefore mandatory: the Creative Commons CC BY license must be selected as standard, with exceptions for monographs and certain other more comprehensive text types.

As part of cOAlition S, various research funders have also joined forces at European level to develop a common guideline for the dissemination and establishment of Open Access. The result of these joint efforts is the so called Plan S, which promotes the mandatory publication of all publicly funded research results in Open Access from 2021 on.The EU has already implemented it in its research framework programs. Although German research funding bodies support Plan S, they have not yet implemented its requirements in a binding manner. Another difference to many open access strategies and guidelines is the explicit inclusion of scientific books in Plan S. Although it is acknowledged that the book transformation may take longer than its counterpart for scientific journals, it is still very welcome that research results and their publication are taken into account across the entire spectrum.

For publication projects resulting from the EU funding programs Horizon 2020, Horizon Europe or Euratom, there is also the possibility to publish the research results on the Open Research Europe (ORE) platform. Scientific texts can be uploaded here, regardless of their scientific content, and suggestions for reviewers can be made. After submission, a post-publication peer review takes place for each publication, which is carried out by the ORE editorial team. All versions of the article and the reviews can then be found and cited online.

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