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Support towards the Europe PMC initiative – Contribution for 2013

Final Report Summary - ERC-EUROPEPMC-SUP-2013 (Support towards the Europe PMC initiative – Contribution for 2013)

Executive Summary:

The proposed action was to support the European Research Council (ERC) in the implementation of its Open Access strategy for projects funded in the Life Sciences domain. The method suggested was for the ERC to join the Europe PMC Funders’ Group, and to contribute to the costs of running the Europe PMC service.

The project had two main objectives:

- to enable ERC funded researchers to use Europe PMC as a repository for their manuscripts, providing easy accessibility and wide visibility;
- to 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.

By the ERC's joining Europe PMC in 2013, ERC funded researchers became able to deposit their author manuscripts using Europe PMC plus, and link their grants to their papers. During 2013 over 650 ERC funded researchers requested a Europe PMC plus account, and over 300 author manuscripts were published to Europe PMC and mirrored to PubMed Central and PMC Canada. In addition, the researchers linked nearly 650 papers to their grants. This researcher-led activity helped us to meet the project objectives.

In addition to this (but not funded through this grant), the Europe PMC service providers completed several exciting developments as approved by the Europe PMC Funders’ Group. These included integration of Europe PMC’s website, search systems and web services with ORCID. The developments improve the Europe PMC service with the aim of further increasing and facilitating the dissemination of research. These developments were accompanied by an engagement programme designed to connect the research community to the content and functionality which Europe PMC has to offer, and to raise awareness of the open access policies of the Europe PMC funders.

The clearly demonstrable utility of the tools provided to ERC funded researchers, and the increase in content within an already extensive and established repository, consolidates Europe PMC’s central role within the open access research landscape. The impact of ERC’s involvement with Europe PMC will continue to be felt within the research community in general, and by ERC funded researchers and the European biomedical and life sciences community in particular.

Project Context and Objectives:


The proposed action was to support the European Research Council (ERC) in the implementation of its Open Access strategy for projects funded in the Life Sciences domain.

1.1 ERC Open Access strategy

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 the call from the 2012 and 2013 Work Programmes normally contain a "Special Clause 39 ERC" that translates this guideline into a formal obligation.

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. 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."

In September 2013 ERC joined an international partnership to support arXiv, in recognition of the central role that arXiv, as a widely-used subject repository, plays in the scientific communication forum (see Note 4).

1.2 PubMed Central (PMC) and Europe PubMed Central (Europe PMC)

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 various funding agencies in the UK and other European countries ("Funders Group"). Europe PMC currently holds around 28 million abstracts, and 2.6 million full text articles (of which around 600,000 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 made available to PMC and all other local PMC implementations (PMC Canada). While there may be differences in the presentation, depending on the local implementation of the system, the content itself is identical regardless whether it is accessed via Europe PMC, PMC, or PMC Canada. Once in PMC, publications can be linked to grants held in the Europe PMC grants database.


The project aimed to fulfil the following two main objectives:

- to enable ERC funded researchers to use Europe PMC as a repository for their manuscripts, providing easy accessibility and wide visibility;
- to 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 were to 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.

These objectives are in line with the text of the 2013 ERC Work Programme (see Note 5) and the FP7 Specific Programme IDEAS (see Note 6). In particular, it must be stressed that without the participation of the ERC in the Europe PMC initiative it would not have been possible for ERC funded researchers in the Life Sciences to deposit their manuscripts in the Europe PMC repository (access to the manuscript deposition service is restricted to researchers funded by members of the Funders Group). Neither would it have been possible for publishers of such manuscripts to directly upload them to Europe PMC. It would thus have been impossible to effectively implement the corresponding recommendation by the ERC Scientific Council.

(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 (2013). Open Access Guidelines for researchers funded by the ERC – revised October 2013
(Note 4)
(Note 5) 10.2 Support to Open Access: “(…) In order to enable ERC Grantees to use PubMed Central as a repository for their manuscripts, the ERC will subscribe to join an initiative of other funding organisations in the biomedical field to operate a European version of PubMed Central. To this effect, the ERC will enter in an agreement with the Wellcome Trust, London, UK which manages this Initiative”
(Note 6) Annex 1 – Objectives: "The objective of the Specific Programme "Ideas" is to reinforce excellence, dynamism and creativity in European research and improve the attractiveness of Europe for the best researchers from both European and third countries, as well as for industrial research investment (…).Communication and dissemination of research results is an important aspect of this programme."

Project Results:

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. The 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 chronicles the use of Europe PMC plus by ERC funded researchers. It also provides an overview of the use of Europe PMC, Europe PMC plus and the Europe PMC Helpdesk by the research community in general.

1.1. Europe PMC plus usage by ERC funded researchers

The first objective for this project was:

- to enable ERC funded researchers 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 original grant application, 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. ERC contacted 2915 grantholders regarding Europe PMC plus on 17th January 2013. The email was considered to be most relevant to roughly 1100 of those contacted. During the remainder of 2013 624 additional grantholders were contacted.

During 2013 Europe PMC plus received approximately the following usage by ERC grantholders:

• 662 requests for a Europe PMC plus account, enabling grantees to deposit content. This equates to around 38% of ERC grantholders contacted, and more than 50% of ERC grantholders in the Life Sciences,.
• 476 manuscript submissions started.
• 303 author manuscripts published to Europe PMC.
• 647 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

The literature held in Europe PMC continues to receive a high level of usage as can be seen in Figure 1. 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 how the project raised awareness of Europe PMC, publications resulting from ERC-funded research, and ERC’s commitment to open access.

2.1 Highlighting publications resulting from ERC funded projects

The second and third objectives listed in this project were:

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

Europe PMC enables ERC to provide a practical demonstration of its commitment to support Open Access to scientific publications. As the users of Europe PMC search, discover and read the content held in the repository, each open access paper in Europe PMC linked to an ERC grant functions as evidence that ERC has fully committed to the reality of open access, not just the principle. Those links are clearly visible on the Abstract of each article, and it is also possible to search for ERC-funded articles specifically.

In addition to the evidence of ERC’s commitment held directly within Europe PMC, the Europe PMC Engagement Manager has also worked to raise awareness of Europe PMC and its funders.

2.2 Engagement activities

In 2013 Europe PMC’s first science-writing competition, Access to Understanding, culminated with an awards ceremony at the British Library in March with whom the competition was run in collaboration with. The competition challenges entrants to summarise a cutting-edge research article for a non-specialist audience, and we were pleased to receive nearly 400 entries in the competition’s first year.

Entries were based on articles selected by the Europe PMC funders for inclusion in the competition. The articles are all available from Europe PMC, are free to read and download, and were supported by one or more of the Europe PMC funders. Two benefits accrued from this method:

1. It increased awareness of Europe PMC as a literature resource, particularly targeting researchers at an early stage of their career.
2. It increased researcher understanding of the Open Access agenda and the importance of the general public being able to access and understand the outcomes of publicly-funded research.

The competition has enabled Europe PMC to reach new audiences as well as specifically expand existing audiences. We have achieved greater visibility in the research community and in the information services and research administration communities. Much of the competition collateral included the logos of the Europe PMC Funders’ Group, highlighting ERC’s commitment to open access. As the first year of the competition was a success, the competition’s second year launched in November.

In addition to the science-writing competition, the Engagement Manager leads a programme of activities. These include the Europe PMC Twitter account:@EuropePMC_news, used to provide news about Europe PMC and its funders, and engage with open access conversations. During 2013 we experienced a 58% increase in followers. 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. During 2013 38 posts were published. Finally, many members of the Europe PMC team visit conferences, institutions and meetings to speak about Europe PMC throughout the year.


In 2013 the Europe PMC service providers, led by EMBL - EBI, worked on several deliverables which were identified and agreed upon as part of the 2012 development plan 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 was 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.

This section provides information regarding a small number of important developments by the Europe PMC service providers during 2013. 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 2013 developments include:

i)Integration of Europe PMC’s website, search systems and web services with ORCID. A tool was created to allow researchers to update their ORCID profiles from Europe PMC, drawing on articles held in Europe PMC. It is now possible to search by ORCID rather than author name, and ORCID’s are also available in the metadata of articles. There are over 580,000 Europe PMC articles with ORCID’s linked to them already.
ii)Development of External Links Service. The External Links Service is a mechanism for people to publish links from articles in Europe PMC to related information or tools. It extends the scope of Europe PMC and provides a showcase for new applications and tools. The third parties who have made use of the External Links service include OpenAIRE, Dryad Digital Repository and HAL Open Archive.
iii) Improved Advanced Search. Previously the Europe PMC Advanced Search was very simple; the new form is more extensive and sophisticated. Key features include:

• Article section-level searching: where you can restrict your search to specific sections of articles.
• Auto-suggest functionality on the journal, author, funder and grant ID fields.
• Data links and citations: easily select the databases that you are interested in.

iv)Development of RESTful Web Service. This Web Service gives programmatic access to all of the publications and related information in Europe PMC. With RESTful the results can be conveniently presented within the user’s browser.
v)Creation of a data feed for ingest into Institutional Repositories (IRs) (via Repository Junction Broker). The Web Services Europe PMC provides allow IRs, and others, to pull the data they are interested in from Europe PMC. The creation of this data feed for Repository Junction Broker, which acts as a central depot for research outputs – getting data from several sources and sending it to relevant IRs – is to demonstrate how IRs can benefit from the content held by Europe PMC.
vi)Prominent positioning of full text links in search results. Previously users had to click through to the Abstract of an article before they were able to click on the full text link for the article. A link now appears against each search result on Europe PMC enabling users to move directly to the full text when available.


The two subsidiary project objectives were also met by the addition of new funders to the Europe PMC Funders’ Group. During 2013 five new funders joined the Group: Yorkshire Cancer Research, Association of International Cancer Research, Breast Cancer Campaign, Diabetes UK, and Prostate Cancer UK.

All five of these funders are members of the Association of Medical Research Charities in the UK. The Europe PMC Project Manager has also been in discussion with several European funders during 2013, and it is anticipated that they will join in 2014. It appears likely that the change from UKPMC to Europe PMC, and the addition of ERC to the Europe PMC Funders’ Group helped encourage these potential new funders to consider joining Europe PMC.

Potential Impact:


The two main expected impacts 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 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 future projects and 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 items (text mining is currently possible for genes/proteins; organisms; Gene Ontology (GO) terms; diseases; Accession numbers; chemicals; and references to and citations of datasets within databases such as UNIPROT).

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 FP7-funded research 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.


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) 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 7)

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 7)

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