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Launch of Open Research Europe Platform

The new research platform Open Research Europe is launching this March, offering a free publishing space for EU Horizon-funded researchers and a repository of top-quality research for all interested.

March 2021 sees the formal launch of Open Research Europe, a new research platform from the European Commission with the aim of offering a free publishing space for researchers funded under the Horizon programmes. This will allow them to easily make their work open access, as required, alongside enabling expert per review. It will also allow for easy and cost-free access to the research from all who are interested. 

One of the conditions of receiving funding from the European Commission under the Horizon 2020 programme has always been that research resulting from it must be made freely available. This is what we often call the principle of “Open Access”. Open Access means that academic work is provided online to any who may be interested in it, free of charge and with the possibility to reuse it. When talking about Research & Innovation, this kind of academic work includes both peer-reviewed scientific research and research data. The idea behind Open Access to Research is that it boosts the broader R&I ecosystem by allowing future researchers and innovators to build on knowledge already built up without having to incur costs to access them. It also makes the ecosystem more efficient through allowing researchers to read already-existing work in the topic they are interested in, thus helping to reduce cases of double-work. Lastly, it makes the results more accessible to the general public, ultimately informing people and inspiring greater trust in the academic field. 

To support this Open Access principle, the European Commission is formally launching Open Research Europe this month, March 2021.  This new platform will serve as a repository for works whose authors have been funded under the Horizon 2020 program, and it is intended to also perform the same function for Horizon Europe in the 2021-2027 programming period, for which Open Access to Research will also be a requirement. 

Using the platform 

So how will Open Research Europe work? After an initial pre-publication check on each piece of research by an in-house editorial team, the platform will allow for the rapid publication of it as a “pre-print”; that is, a research article which has not yet gone through the procedure of peer review to test the veracity of its content and claims. This is not, however, the end of the story. Open Research Europe will also provide its own peer-reviewing service on all pieces submitted to it, inviting expert reviewers to pass their judgement on it. Ultimately, all versions of each piece of research will be made available, from the pre-print to the comments made by its peer reviewers, through to any updated versions submitted by the authors in light of the feedback they receive. In order to ensure a reliable reviewing process, particular standards will be kept to, including that the reviewers must be proven to be relevant to the topic of the research in question, that they must have an appropriate education level, and that they must not have any conflict of interest such as being close associates of the author(s). 

Published material will span six main areas of science: Natural Sciences, Engineering and Technology, Medical Sciences, Agricultural Sciences, Social Sciences, and the Humanities, as visible in the division of the Scientific Board. Each category will allow publications of different types, including research articles, brief reports, essays, data, method articles, and others. (The new Open Research Europe (ORE) platform has opened its wings, 2020) 

Lastly, the platform will allow readers of articles to comment on them, subject to a registration and login procedure to keep trolls and bots at bay. 

A game-changer? 

The traditional model for publication and peer-review of research has traditionally involved financial costs upon the reader of the research, who has had to pay for access to particular pieces of research or for subscription to the journal hosting them, money which would go towards the costs of peer reviewing. In the case of Open Access publishing, until now, costs have also been incurred by those publishing the research, in the form of an Article Processing Charge. In other cases, publishing in Open Access has been delayed subject to an initial period in which it is not freely and openly accessible (Guidelines to the Rules on Open Access to Scientific Publications and Open Access to Research Data in Horizon 2020, 2017). It is hoped that, by having the European Commission on-board funding the peer-reviewing process itself while charging no Article Processing Charge to the publisher(s), Open Research Europe may offer an additional boost to the practice of Open Access Publishing, in turn making the European and indeed global more transparent, efficient, and socially useful. 

It is worth pointing out that Open Access forms one of the 5 “keys” of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI). EURADA thus support the principle of Open Access to research through our work on two Horizon 2020 projects focused on RRI: TeRRItoria and TetRRIS. Though these projects are still in progress and yet to complete their implementation phases, possible institutional changes stemming from them in the area of promoting Open Access to Research may include the integration of the Open Access principle into regional Research & Innovation Smart Specialisation Strategies (RIS3s) in those participating territories which are engaging in reform of their RIS3. 

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