German research ministry demands open access

Federally funded research will now come with an open access clause – but uncertainties remain

September 21, 2016
Mural peering at person reading newspaper
Source: Alamy

All research funded by the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) will have to be open access, it has been announced, but the strategy does not go as far as open access advocates would like.  

The new policy means that BMBF-funded research will come with an open access clause, although scholars will still be able to publish in closed journals and make their work open after an embargo period.

This mirrors the situation in the UK, where researchers will be expected to make their work open access to be included in the research excellence framework, the UK’s periodic review of research quality. However, closed journals can still set embargo periods, delaying open access.  

Marco Tullney, an open access expert at the German National Library of Science and Technology, said that the ministry was being “careful” in rolling out open access.

Other organisations, such as the Fraunhofer Institutes for applied research, were moving “much faster”, he said, “by defining goals for the open access share of their researchers' publications. BMBF are not saying...when they want the change to open access to be complete.”

“The German government and this ministry has taken a long time to finalise this strategy – they had announced it when forming this coalition government a few years ago,” he added.

“Compared to open access strategies of, for example, UK, Denmark, Netherlands this is far from being innovative and defining new goals,” he said.

This year, the BMBF will distribute about €5.5 billion (£4.72 billion) of research funding to universities across Germany.

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