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Support towards the Europe PMC initiative-Contribution for 2014-2016

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


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"
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

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) impa
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