Open Science and Research Data Management Policies in the European Union

European Union by Dušan Cvetanović from Pixabay

Research funding bodies define the conditions for carrying out research in the form of so-called science policies. Slovenia, as a member of the European Union, is subject to relevant policies brought by the European Research Area, a common research space based on the internal market but open to the world and allowing free circulation of researchers, scientific findings and technology. Certain financial mechanisms within the ERA, such as Horizon Europe, the European Research Council and Euratom, can mandate more detailed or more specific research policies.

European Research Area (ERA)

In March 2022, the European Commission adopted the Pact for Research and Innovation in Europe. The Pact defines 10 common values and principles that will guide research and innovation in Europe and its cooperation with the rest of the world. The ERA Common Policy further defines 20 concrete measures that will contribute to the realization of the goals set in the Pact in the period 2022-2024. These measures are:

  1. Implementation of open science, including through the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC);
  2. A draft EU copyright and data legislative framework for research;
  3. A reform of the assessment system for research, researchers and institutions;
  4. Promotion of attractive research careers, talent circulation and mobility;
  5. Promotion of gender equality and fostering inclusivity;
  6. Protection of academic freedom in Europe;
  7. An upgrade of the EU guidance for a better knowledge valorisation;
  8. Strengthening of research infrastructures;
  9. Promotion of international cooperation;
  10. Evolution of EU research and innovation missions and partnerships into key contributors to the ERA;
  11. An ERA for green transformation;
  12. Acceleration of the green/digital transition of Europe’s key industrial ecosystems;
  13. Empowerment of higher education institutions;
  14. Bringing science closer to citizens;
  15. Formation of research and innovation ecosystems to improve excellence and competitiveness;
  16. Improvement of EU-wide access to excellence;
  17. Enhancement of the strategic capacity of public research institutions;
  18. Providing support to the development of EU countries’ national processes for the ERA implementation;
  19. Formation of an ERA monitoring system;
  20. Providing support to research and innovation investments and reforms.

We will take a closer look at the European Union's open science policy, the European Open Science Cloud and the Open Research Europe publishing platform as parts of the ERA common policy.

European Union's Policy on Open Science

Open science is one of the European Commission's priorities and a standard operating principle within its research and innovation funding programmes. The EU's open science policy comprises eight aspects:

  1. Training and skills for implementing open science in practice,
  2. Recognizing, promoting and rewarding open science practices,
  3. New-generation metrics and altmetrics,
  4. Open publishing and encouraging early sharing of research results,
  5. Open data,
  6. Research integrity and reproducibility of scientific findings,
  7. European Open Science Cloud (EOSC),
  8. Citizen science.

The essence of these policies at different ERA levels is amalgamated in open access to all research findings resulting from publicly funded research work. Open research results include openly accessible peer-reviewed scientific articles, open research data and all other open research results (e.g., methodologies, samples, protocols, software, instruments...).

Open research results must enable both the reproducibility of research and the possibility of reusing the results in other research works. This can be best achieved by responsible research data management in accordance with the principle »as open as possible, as closed as necessary«. Responsible research data management is management in accordance with ethical principles, the research data management plan, the policies of funders and other interests. The key principle of responsible data management is adherence to the FAIR principles (Findability, Accessibility, Interoperability, Reusability). To this end, the European Commission requires the recipients of public funding to plan research data management in a precise and timely manner. To facilitate researchers' compliance with the principles of open science, the European Commission has also established its own open publishing platform - Open Research Europe.

Open Research Europe (ORE)

Open Research Europe is an online platform for open publishing and open peer review of scientific works from all research areas within the Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe projects. Since the platform is funded by the European Commission, the entire process is free of charge for its users. Publications are published very quickly in the form of preprints, and the review process is open and transparent. Comments on the publication are still possible even after the review has been completed, and authors retain the option to upload corrections and updates at any time in the future. A new version of the scientific work can then enter a new round of the revision process.

More information about Open Research Europe is available in the lecture on the Open Academy of CTK UL.

European Open Science Cloud (EOSC)

The European Open Science Cloud is an initiative that aims to develop "a network of FAIR data and services" for European science. Access to research data is currently fragmented, as the data are created and stored in various European research institutions and data centers. Open access to this data is not guaranteed and the content is not interoperable, which limits reuse.

The European Open Science Cloud is set out to solve this problem by establishing digital infrastructure that will ensure the interoperability of databases and a single entry point, and easy and open access to data from publicly funded research as a result. Aspects of this digital infrastructure range from visualization and analytics to long-term data storage and monitoring the adoption of open science practices.

Horizon Europe

Horizon Europe is the ninth key financial programme of the European Union for financing research and innovation, which will last from 2021 to 2027. It follows the Horizon 2020 programme, which has already partially obliged researchers to the practices of open science. With Horizon 2020, open access publishing became mandatory, whereas the sharing of research data and the creation of research data management plans could still be waived with the argument of justified exceptions.

With Horizon Europe, the sharing of research data and the creation of research data management plans have also become mandatory alongside open access publishing. Research data may otherwise remain closed or secured due to eligible exemptions but in any case metadata must be open. Research data management must be responsible, planned in advance and compliant with the FAIR principles as well as the principle »as open as possible, as closed as necessary«. Among the recommended open science practices, Horizon Europe lists project pre-registration, registration reports and publication of preprints.

In Horizon Europe projects, open science practices are evaluated within the criteria of Excellence and Quality and Efficiency of Implementation. An exception to this rule are European Research Council (ERC) projects, which do not include open science practices among the evaluation criteria. ERC also provides applicants or beneficiaries with separate instructions for preparing a research data management and sharing plan.

Key Horizon Europe Documents

Tender documentation and other related documents (including, for example, a template for the data management plan) can be found on the online portal of the European Commission, Funding & Tender Opportunities. The key documents you need to know are:

Last update: 31 August 2022

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