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Support to the Europe PMC initiative – Co-funding grant for the 2016-2021 period

Periodic Reporting for period 4 - ERC-EuropePMC-2015 (Support to the Europe PMC initiative – Co-funding grant for the 2016-2021 period)

Reporting period: 2020-10-01 to 2021-03-31

This project sought to provide continued support to the European Research Council (ERC) in the implementation of its Open Access strategy for projects funded in the life sciences domain.

The ERC is a strong supporter of open access. The ERC believes that providing free online access to the articles and monographs describing the results of the research they have funded is the most effective way of ensuring that these results are read and used as the basis for further research (ERC Open Access Guidelines - revised February 2016).

Europe PMC (www.europepmc.org) provides a European infrastructure solution to the literature discovery problem within the domain of the life sciences. Our mission is to provide open, full text scientific literature resources and support innovation by engaging users, enabling contributors and integrating related research data. We are a partner of PubMed Central International and the designated repository for the life sciences portfolios of our 31 funders which includes the ERC through this action. We provide free access to 38.7 million articles abstracts, over 6.9 million full text articles and over 5 million other records including biological patents, preprints and clinical guidelines. A key feature of Europe PMC is the extensive and deep linking with underlying research data, which is becoming increasingly important as open science policies and practice develop.

This project supported the ongoing operational, maintenance and development costs of Europe PMC. In addition to the funding from the ERC through this project, funding was provided from another 30 European and International funders of life sciences research. The project enabled Europe PMC to continue supporting the ERC’s Open Access Strategy by providing an easily accessible repository service for their funded research in the life sciences and by further increasing the visibility of the ERC as a funder of cutting-edge research by providing a clearly visible link between the publications and their associated ERC grants.

During the project, Europe PMC has expanded and continued to provide global access to our world-class collection of open access full text research literature. The further development work funded by this project has supported us in our goal of generating a deeply integrated information environment providing unique services to the research community. During the project we have continued to provide ERC funded researchers with the ability to use Europe PMC as a repository for their manuscripts enabling them to comply with the ERC's Open Access policy. The project enabled Europe PMC to strengthen its position as an essential asset within the European open science infrastructure ecosystem.
Between 2016 and 2019, Europe PMC increased its user base by about 39% (unique IP addresses per year). In 2020, this increase went up by 300%. API usage reached an all-time high in March 2021, serving 11M MB (11 TB) of data, over 20 times what it served in April 2016.

More specific milestones include:

· Europe PMC services have been more reliable and faster overall for the duration of 2016-2021 than in any other period of its operation.

· Europe PMC core content, in March 2021, stood at 38.7M abstracts and 6.9M full text articles.

· Since 2018, over 265K preprints have been included from multiple sources.

· 10M publications in Europe PMC are linked to at least one ORCID; this feeds the automatically generated Author Profile pages; the Europe PMC ORCID-claiming tool is still used by around 3000 unique users per month.

· The Scilite application visualises 1.3 billion bioentities, extracted by several contributors, and shared for reuse via the Annotations API

· 1.9M publications within Europe PMC are linked to data and integrated with BioStudies; all data are now easily findable through a single API call.

· The manuscript submission system was completely replaced through an open source software solution, developed together with Hindawi, eLife and the CoKo foundation.

· A major website redesign in 2019 merged the abstracts and full text pages and made it easier to find related information.

· The Europe PMC outreach program has reached over 40,000 people between 2016-2021. Europe PMC has been represented at over 150 events, provided training for over 10,000 users, and expanded its collaborations to include over 60 new data providers.
Europe PMC is a unique initiative, with no other comparable projects in the life sciences or other domains that offer similar opportunities to the scientific community (ERC funded researchers in particular) and its participating funding agencies.

Changes in the policies of funding agencies across Europe, including 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, the impact is limited. This project supported Europe PMC to provide this central repository service while also contributing to increasing awareness of open access and therefore positively impacting on the practices of life sciences researchers in Europe, regarding their publication and depositing behaviour. The growth in usage of Europe PMC during this project shows the relevance and importance of this infrastructure to the research community.

One of the expected impacts of this project was the generation of interest among other funders covering the life sciences domain to join the Europe PMC initiative to promote open access amongst the researchers they fund. During the life of this project we added five new funders to the project, the Academy of Medical Sciences (UK), the Wellcome Trust-DBT India Alliance (India), and the Swiss National Science Foundation (CH), Pancreatic Cancer UK, MQ: transforming mental health.

This project was specifically designed to facilitate the ERC’s open access strategy, thus an expected impact is an increase in the level of compliance with the ERC's Open Access Guidelines for researchers funded by the ERC in the life sciences. The ERC’s approach to Open Access has wide-reaching societal implications, and also significant potential socio-economic impact. Its smooth implementation, via Europe PMC, is an important factor in achieving its maximum impact. Usage of Europe PMC by ERC funded researchers is one of the highest amongst all funders of the resource.
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