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Monitoring the open access policy of Horizon 2020

Updated: Sep 8, 2023


In this post, we take a look at the report released in September 2021 by the European Commission: Monitoring the open access policy of Horizon 2020. Running from 2014-2020, Horizon 2020 has been an ambitious funding programme focused on building sustainable growth and employment opportunities through impactful research. This latest report has done the much-needed job of assessing how successful the open access policy of Horizon has been.

How much of the research coming out of Horizon 2020 is open access, and how could open science targets coming out of similar future programmes, such as Horizon Europe, be improved?

We give you a handy summary of Horizon 2020 and pull together the new report’s key findings so that you can explore the successes and challenges all in one place.

Horizon 2020 logo with a blue background, globe image and the European Comission logo at the top

What is Horizon 2020?

Horizon 2020 was the largest ever European funding programme for research and innovation. It had a budget of €60 billion and aimed to:

· ensure that Europe produces world-class science
· remove barriers to innovation
· make it easier for public and private sectors to innovate together

The programme ran from 2014-2020. The focus of Horizon 2020 was to drive economic growth and create jobs. Backed by Europe’s leaders and the Members of the European Parliament, this ambitious programme was all about sustainable, inclusive development to provide employment and security for the future.

There are three areas which Horizon 2020 had at its core to achieve growth and security:

1. Scientific excellence
2. industrial leadership
3. tackling societal challenges

A post it note with 'Did you know' written on it pegged to a black string

Did you know? Horizon 2020 funding applications were open to any individual or group to apply. The application process aimed to reduce red tape and administration time to achieve results without unnecessary delays.

Horizon 2020 Key statistics

· 150,000 participants
· €60 billion budget
· 100,000 peer-reviewed publications
· 2,500 patent applications and trademarks

Data collected up to December 2020

What does the new report tell us?

On 6th September 2021, the European Commission released a report on how open science was addressed and advanced by Horizon 2020. We have summarized the main findings and mainly focused on critical successes and challenges.

General findings

• 50% of publications were published by the three top publishers - Elsevier, Springer Nature and Wiley

• The average APC cost for a fully open access Horizon 2020 publication is €2,200


• Funder collaboration both nationally and internationally was most active within the Excellent Science and Societal Challenges pillars

• The quality of the metadata for outputs is impressive. 81.6% of publication metadata included licensing information, and 66.9% of datasets also included licensing information

• Medical and health sciences publications had a high open access rate of over 88%


• Discoverability of datasets is a real issue – only 32% of datasets are accessible due to a lack of valid URLs

• Only around 1% of publications came from humanities and the arts, and approximately 6% from social sciences. This low representation could be due to a general lack of support or funding in these areas, or it could be due to differences in the output format

• With the highest rates of open access publications, medical and health sciences publications are the least likely to reference the grant in the deposited publication metadata

• It has been difficult to trace who has borne the publication costs for journals and books due to the complexities of transformative agreements, institutional funds, and co-funded publications

Amongst others, the report’s findings underline the importance of open-source infrastructures, such as institutional repositories and the necessity to invest further and improve them to ensure “continuity, robustness and therefore trust in the monitoring process”. These steps are necessary to build a pragmatic approach for implementing Open Science.

OpenAire, September 2021


Monitoring the open access policy of Horizon 2020 reports that overall, Horizon 2020 publications have mainly been open access, with the highest rate of 88% for medical and health sciences and 86% for the Excellent Science pillar.

While it is positive to see such high rates of open access publications, plenty of issues have emerged to be addressed in Horizon Europe, which follows Horizon 2020. The quality and accuracy of metadata need to be improved to increase the discoverability and accessibility of publications. It would also be beneficial to look at increasing the arts and social sciences representation in future programmes.

Did you find this report summary useful? If you have any questions or comments, do please let us know in the comments section and share online.

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