Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


ERC-EuropePMC-1-2014 Report Summary

Project ID: 632927
Funded under: H2020-EU.1.1.

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - ERC-EuropePMC-1-2014 (Support towards the Europe PMC initiative-Contribution for 2014-2016)

Reporting period: 2015-07-01 to 2016-03-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project


The proposed action was to continue to support the European Research Council (ERC) in the implementation of its Open Access strategy for projects funded in the Life Sciences domain. It follows on from the project “Support towards the Europe PMC initiative – Contribution for 2013” (ERC-EuropePMC-SUP-2013) which allowed the ERC to offer the benefits of Europe PubMed Central (Europe PMC to its funded researchers for the first time in 2013.


The ERC Scientific Council has been a strong supporter of open access since its creation. In December 2006, long before any grant was awarded, the ERC Scientific Council issued its Statement on Open Access in which it committed to making efforts to ensure that research results from projects it funds are available in an open access format (see Note 1). This statement was followed a year later by specific guidelines for ERC funded projects (see Note 2) which required all peer-reviewed publications from ERC funded projects to be made openly accessible shortly after their publication. All ERC grants awarded under calls from the 2012 and 2013 Work Programmes normally contain a "Special Clause 39 ERC" that translates this guideline into a formal obligation. Under Horizon 2020, open access to peer-reviewed scientific publications related to results from ERC projects has become mandatory.

In its plenary session of the 20 June 2012, the ERC Scientific Council adopted a revised version of its Open Access Guidelines, which was revisited again in October 2013, in December 2014 and in February 2016. The guidelines reaffirm the ERC's commitment to open access:

"The mission of the European Research Council (ERC) is to support excellent research in all fields of science and scholarship. The main outputs of this research are new knowledge, ideas and understanding, which the ERC expects its researchers to publish in peer-reviewed articles and monographs. The ERC considers that providing free online access to these materials is the most effective way of ensuring that the fruits of the research it funds can be accessed, read, and used as the basis for further research." (see Note 3)

The guidelines also strongly encourage the use of discipline-specific repositories and list a number of recommended repositories for various disciplines:

"The recommended repository for Life Sciences is Europe PubMed Central; and for Physical Sciences and Engineering arXiv is recommended. The ERC Scientific Council is currently not recommending any specific repository for Social Sciences and Humanities. However, it is reviewing existing practices and open access infrastructures in this domain and may make recommendations in the future. The recommended repository for monographs, book chapters and other long-text publications is the OAPEN Library"

In September 2013 ERC joined an international partnership to support arXiv, in recognition of the central role that arXiv, a widely-used subject repository, plays as a scientific communication forum (see Note 4). In February 2016 the ERC and the OAPEN foundation announced their cooperation in furthering open access to academic books and book chapters (see Note 5).


PubMed Central (PMC) is a US-based digital archive for biomedical research publications which are made accessible at no charge. PMC is operated by the US National Library of Medicine (NLM). It can be accessed through the following URL:

In its efforts to create a network of digital archives that can share all of their respective locally deposited content, NLM has set up PMC International (PMCI), which allows international PMC centres to make (most of) PMC's contents freely available online in local or regional PMC archives.

In Europe, the Wellcome Trust (acting through its trustee The Wellcome Trust Limited) entered into an agreement with NLM to develop UKPMC. UKPMC has been operational since 2007, and was rebranded as Europe PMC in November 2012 to better reflect the (current and future) participation in the initiative by Europe-based non-UK funders. In the Europe PMC initiative, the Wellcome Trust leads a partnership of funding agencies in the UK and other European countries ("Funders' Group"). Europe PMC currently holds around 31 million abstracts, and 3.7 million full text articles (of which around 1 million are Open Access). Europe PMC also holds other literature such as patent abstracts and clinical guidelines.

Europe PMC accepts final peer-reviewed articles from researchers supported by the funders in the Funders’ Group. These articles are either deposited directly by the publisher (where the journal is open access, or offers a paid open access option), or by the researcher (where the publisher agrees to authors making their articles publically available after an embargo period). Europe PMC provides a dedicated manuscript deposition service (Europe PMC plus). Whether manuscripts are deposited by publishers or by authors, in both cases publications are marked up to the NLM's XML DTD format. Manuscripts deposited via Europe PMC plus are mirrored back to PMC. Once in Europe PMC, publications can be linked to grants held in the Europe PMC grants database.


Building on its predecessor project ERC-EuropePMC-SUP-2013, the project aims to fulfil the following two main objectives:

- to continue to provide ERC funded researchers with the possibility to use Europe PMC as a repository for their manuscripts, providing easy accessibility and wide visibility;

- to further increase the visibility of the ERC as a funder of cutting-edge research by providing a clearly visible link between the publications emanating from ERC funded projects and the associated grants.

The two main objectives contribute to two subsidiary objectives:

- to raise awareness - among and beyond the community of ERC funded researchers - of the ERC's commitment to support Open Access of scientific publications;

- to contribute to the effective dissemination of research results.

NOTE 1. ERC (2006). ERC Scientific Council Statement on Open Access
NOTE 2. ERC (2007). ERC Scientific Council Guidelines for Open Access
NOTE 3. ERC (2014). Open Access Guidelines for research results funded by the ERC – revised February 2016
NOTE 5.";

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

Europe PMC’s activities are extensive and varied, and these are reported in full to the Europe PMC Project Board and in sum to the Europe PMC Funders’ Group. This section reports on the description of the main results for this project, specifically as they refer to the main and subsidiary objectives as listed in this report.


This segment chronicals the use of Europe PMC plus by ERC funded researchers as a repository for their manuscripts. It provides an idea of how Europe PMC contributes to the effective dissemination of research results, and highlights ERC as a funder of cutting-edge research.

1.1 Europe PMC plus usage by ERC funded researchers

The first objective for this project was:

- to continue to provide ERC funded researchers with the possibility to use Europe PMC as a repository for their manuscripts, providing easy accessibility and wide visibility;

One of the risks identified with this project was the availability of data, in particular email addresses, for existing and newly selected ERC grants. Due to data confidentiality issues, the Europe PMC Helpdesk was not able to directly create user accounts on the Europe PMC plus system on the basis of grant information provided by the ERC Executive Agency (ERCEA). It was necessary for ERCEA to notify their grantholders regarding availability of Europe PMC plus accounts. Notified grantholders were asked to contact the Helpdesk to request account setup. This approach was identified as a workaround in the grant application for the predecessor project ERC-EuropePMC-SUP-2013, and had the potential to reduce take up of the author deposition service. However, it can be seen that the usage of Europe PMC plus has still been quite significant.

Between 1 Jan 2014 - 31 March 2016 ERC contacted 1776 new grantholders. During the same period Europe PMC plus received approximately the following usage by ERC grantholders:

- 448 requests for a Europe PMC plus account, enabling grantees to deposit content. This equates to a quarter of the contacted ERC grantholders requesting an account.
- 936 manuscript submissions started.
- 574 papers manually linked to grants.
- The full and current number of papers with links to ERC grants can be seen here:

1.2 Europe PMC usage by the biomedical and life sciences research community

Europe PMC is now accessed by approximately 1 million unique users per month. This usage clearly indicates how Europe PMC helps to contribute to the effective dissemination of research results, the fourth objective listed in the project, and also how it helps to ensure ERC-funded research is highly visible, which is part of the first objective.


This section reports on the engagement activity and key developments that have been undertaken over the course of the grant. Europe PMC engagement activity aims to raise awareness of Europe PMC, and of its funders and their open access policies.

2.1 Engagement activities

The third annual science-writing competition, Access to Understanding, launched on 11 November 2014 and received over 300 submissions. Biomedical scientists were invited to explain complex scientific research articles in plain English. Twelve articles were selected by Europe PMC funders for inclusion in the competition, and spanned basic through to clinical science. The articles were all available from Europe PMC, were free to read and download, and were supported by one or more of the Europe PMC funders.

We used a combination of strategic approaches (use of marketing collateral, social media etc.) to engage with priority target stakeholders and achieved greater impact than use of these approaches individually, thus reinforcing the competition as a useful complementary approach to engage with researchers and the wider stakeholder community. Public and patient involvement and awareness was advanced by increased patient advocate representation on the judging panel and associated publicity to their networks, as well as the growth in interest in the People’s Choice award.

The entries were assessed by a prestigious panel of judges and the shortlisted entries were then made opened for public vote which determined the winner of the People’s Choice award, and the judges selected their own winner also. The winners were announced at a ceremony held at The British Library on 27 March 2015, where awards and prizes were given out. The winning entry was also published by eLife.

In addition to the science-writing competition, the Engagement Manager led a programme of activities. These included the Europe PMC Twitter account: @EuropePMC_news, used to provide news about Europe PMC and its funders, and engage with open access conversations. Over the course of the project the number of Twitter followers has increased by over 180%. The Europe PMC blog is also used to provide updates on new Europe PMC developments, funder policies and other open access or Europe PMC news. Between January 2014 - 31 March 2016 48 posts were published. Finally, many members of the Europe PMC team visit conferences, institutions and meetings to speak about Europe PMC throughout the year, and EBI hosted two developer days with ContentMine.

2.2 Key Europe PMC developments

Over the 27 months of the grant the Europe PMC service providers, led by EMBL - EBI, worked on many deliverables which were identified and agreed upon as part of the 2014 and 2015 development plans by the Europe PMC Project Board, Funders’ Group and Advisory Board. Europe PMC development work was not funded through the grant from the ERC but through a different mechanism. However, since part of the function of these developments is to contribute to the effective dissemination of research results, thus contributing to the fourth project objective, an overview of some of these developments is also included here. During this time much other development and core service work was undertaken. This is reported to the Europe PMC Project Board each quarter. The key developments include:

i) Unified search. Until January 2015, the world of abstracts and the world of full-text articles, while connected in many ways, were developed quite independently from each other. The practical consequence of this is that the two sources had different information associated with them: abstracts tend to have richer metadata, while full text articles have more content as well as other specific information such as the article’s licence and text-mined data citations associated with them. Previously, Europe PMC has treated abstracts and full-text articles distinctly, meaning that search results have been displayed
as two separate results lists - one for abstracts and one for full text. Certain types of searches that cut across all content have been very difficult if not impossible to execute. Europe PMC search now simultaneously operates across all abstracts and all full text articles, presenting the results as a single list. This has several immediate advantages. For example until now it has not been possible to sort full text articles by citation count. In addition, it is now straightforward to see which full text articles you can freely access in Europe PMC, or see how many are Open Access, via the “Popular Content Sets” listed on each search result page.

ii) Export function. In order to reuse Europe PMC content in different contexts, a new export function was released in 2014. It is now easy to download citations for use in reference management systems, cut-and-paste references into documents, use tabulated data in spread sheets, or examine XML coding in open access full text documents. Article metadata is offered in several different formats. Full text XML is also available for open access articles in the Europe PMC collection.

iii) Search fields for monitoring compliance. Several new search fields have been added, including CC-type licence, Manuscript ID, and a filter for self-archived Europe PMC Funder manuscripts. The publication date field has been significantly improved, allowing searches not only by year but also month and day, including electronic publication dates and a Europe PMC-specific field: “first published” date. It is hoped that the addition of these fields will help funders like ERC monitor compliance with their open access policies.

iv) ORCID. In 2013 we integrated Europe PMC's website, search systems and web services with ORCID. We have continued to work with ORCID and enhance our offering. Our Grant Information System (GRIST) and API is now ORCID capable, and ERC was the first funder to supply ORCIDs along with their grant data. In addition we have used ORCID to create author profile pages: based on ORCID records, they provide a graphical overview of an author’s publications in Europe PMC, as well as citation rate over time. With over 2.2 million articles in Europe PMC linked to about 172,000 unique ORCIDs, it is expected that this feature to be of wide interest to publishing researchers, journals, funders, and others interested in scientific credit.

v) Europe PMC Accounts. It is now possible to log into a Europe PMC account with an ORCID or Twitter ID, or create a specific Europe PMC account. Currently the account allows users to save a search as well as claim articles for ORCID accounts. We expect the accounts to support many advanced features in the future, including manuscript submission.

vi) Homepage re-design. A new version of the web site was released in January 2016. This followed the creation of several design concepts, with feedback gathered from over 60 people using an online usability testing tool. Further usability studies were carried out as the website design progressed. Key aspects of this release included automatic scaling of the site for mobile and tablet devices, simplified and reorganized navigation, and accessibility for people using assistive technologies.


The third and fourth objectives were also met by the addition of new funders to the Europe PMC Funders' Group. Three new funders joined the group: World Health Organization, Alzheimer's Society, and Bloodwise.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)


The two main expected impacts/results of this project can be identified as follows:

- broad uptake of the Europe PMC facility as a repository for ERC funded projects in the Life Sciences;
- increased level of compliance with the ERC's rules and guidelines related to Open Access even for the Life Sciences projects selected before the introduction of the Open Access obligation (Special Clause 39 of the FP7 ERC Model Grant Agreement / Article 29.2 of the Horizon 2020 ERC Model Grant Agreement).

The project fosters this potential impact by providing a user-friendly platform that will allow the easy posting of manuscripts, by grantholders of past and future projects, including projects selected before the introduction of ERC’s Open Access obligation. The fact that Europe PMC is reaching a very large and continuously growing audience (through its linkages to PMC in the US and other national implementations through PMC International) provides a strong incentive to use Europe PMC not only to make new publications available, but also to submit copies of manuscripts that have been published before the entry into force of the Grant Agreement for this project.

In this context the fact that Europe PMC is a domain specific repository needs to be stressed. This apparent restriction is actually an advantage as it allows for the provision of much more specific and tailored services than could be provided by a repository that caters to all domains and disciplines. Highly sophisticated software tools have already been integrated into the architecture of Europe PMC to allow text mining for Life Sciences specific item.

Another point that needs to be highlighted is the fact that Europe PMC not only enables ERC funded researchers to submit manuscripts, but that these are directly linked to core data of the grants. The project also provides the opportunity for furthering the existing collaboration with OpenAIRE; Europe PMC has an open API and public web service which OpenAIRE already utilizes to find research funded under FP7 and Horizon 2020 and pull the associated metadata into OpenAIRE. As a greater proportion of ERC-funded research is deposited in Europe PMC as full-text articles OpenAIRE can choose to link to the full-text article at Europe PMC from within its database. In addition, the External Links Service, developed in 2013, enables infrastructures such as OpenAIRE to link full text articles which have been deposited in repositories harvested by OpenAIRE to the metadata for those articles held in Europe PMC. This is a simple process which has the potential to significantly increase the dissemination of full text articles held outside Europe PMC. There are currently over 20 users of the External Links service.


Europe PMC is a unique initiative. There are no other comparable projects in the life sciences or other domains that offer similar opportunities to the scientific community (and ERC funded researchers in particular) and participating funding agencies. The technical implementation is state-of-the-art with various new developments being foreseen for the coming years. Recent changes in the policies of funding agencies across Europe, including the development of Open Access mandates, have led to an increased awareness of the benefits of open access publishing. However, in the absence of an easily accessible central repository, easy access and discovery of relevant articles by researchers in the life sciences has been limited in the past. This project not only helps Europe PMC to continue to remedy this situation but also contributes to a further increase of awareness and thereby positively impacts on the practices employed by life sciences researchers in Europe, regarding their publication and depositing behaviour.

One of the expected (and to some extent already visible, as with WHO's involvement) impacts of this project is generation of interest among other Europe-based, non-UK funders covering the Life Sciences domain to join the Europe PMC initiative in order to promote Open Access among the researchers they fund. The smooth implementation of the project in terms of easy use by the researchers, and successful awareness raising from the side of Europe PMC, should be encouraging for other European funders. The fact that the ERC as a prestigious European funder supports the initiative in itself is very helpful in this regard.

This project was specifically designed to facilitate ERC’s open access strategy. The European Commission’s background note on open access to publications and data in Horizon 2020, published October 2012, makes explicit reference to the potential economic impact of open access:

"The Europe 2020 strategy for a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy underlines the central role of knowledge and innovation in generating growth. Open access has an important role to play in this context:

• Research results (publications and data), and in particular publicly-funded research results need to be circulated rapidly and widely, using digital media. This accelerates scientific discovery, enables new forms of data-intensive research and allows research findings to be systematically taken up by European business and industry.
• In addition, open access is generating competition among well-established scientific publishers and has stimulated the creation of new, usually less expensive, sometime non-profit scientific publishers." (See Note 6)

ERC’s approach to Open Access has wide-reaching societal implications, and a significant potential socio-economic impact. Its smooth implementation is an important factor in achieving maximum impact. Europe PMC also has a significant societal impact through easy access to a large corpus of life sciences literature, which has the impact as outlined in the European Commission’s background note. However, the project itself was not intended to have a far-reaching socio-economic impact in itself.

NOTE 6.";

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