IRB Barcelona goes full on open access

Ignasi Labastida, CRAI (University of Barcelona)
Ignasi Labastida, CRAI (University of Barcelona)

Open access is the future of scientific publications. The EU's H2020 funding and the 2011 Spanish Science Law require scientists to make their research freely available. In May, the Institute signed an agreement with the University of Barcelona that gives IRB Barcelona access to their repository. Ignasi Labastida, a physicist by training, works at the Learning and Research Resources Centre (CRAI) at the UB and is in charge of the University's open access activities. He explains the importance of the repository, and what to do to make sure researchers' scientific production is freely accessible.

The EU has mandated that all scientific papers be open access by 2020. This “life-changing” move, as Science, Research and Innovation Commissioner Carlos Moedas calls it, may be an overly ambitious goal. But the European science ministers are clear in their decision taken earlier this year, and the European scientific community is working to implement the changes to make it happen.

In May, IRB Barcelona signed an agreement with the University of Barcelona (UB) that gives the Institute access to their repository, which already has a solid reputation and is linked to the EU-funded repository Openaire, a portal that seeks to make as much European-funded research output as possible available to all.

Ignasi Labastida, a physicist by training, works at the Learning and Research Resources Centre (CRAI) at the UB and is in charge of the University’s  open access activities.


How has the open access policy changed lately?

Until a few years ago, publications being openly accessible was just a recommendation. At the European level, the big change came in 2014, with the Horizon2020 Framework programme. Any project funded within H2020 is requiered to disseminate any resulting publication as open access. (For more details, read the Guidelines on Open Access to Scientific Publications and Research Data in Horizon 2020). In the case of Spain, the Science Law of 2011 indicates that open access should also be a criterion for Government-funded research. But only in 2014 did the Government start to work on this, so it’s still unclear what the exact requirements are. Finally, ERC also formally requires that publications be freely accessible, and checks for strict compliance.

What happens if you do not satisfy this requirement?

In general, people haven't given in too much thought so far. Now the EU considers this as a contractual condition of the contract, so not meeting it implies a breach of contract. A good reference that we can use to understand where we are heading is the case of the Wellcome Trust—veterans in this field. In their case, if you do not comply with the open access policy, they do not pay the last instalment of the agreed funding. In Spain, the Government is beginning to ask universities to inform them about the publications in our repositories. So far, they have not decided which ID codes to use for the papers so as to make them compatible with European repositories.

What are the advantages for scientists if their research is open access?

Besides the financial aspect, if a publication is more accessible, the research receives a potentially bigger boost and has greater impact. Nowadays, the evaluation of research quality is beginning to change, and new criteria are being considered. Not just the IF of the journals, or the number of citations, but also other types of impact. If a paper is open access, more people will see it and talk about it. And of course there is an ethical issue. Here we have the resources to access any journal, but not everyone in the world has the same means. Open access repositories make it easier for more scientists and more people to access research. 

What do you offer IRB Barcelona researchers?

What we offer IRB Barcelona and other partner research centres is access to our repository. We try to make the process as automated as possible. Our philosophy for our professors is publish where you want, you don’t need to do it in an open access journal. Once it’s published, deposit your paper in our repository and don’t worry about it any more. We will make sure it is accessible as soon as possible, complying with the rules of the publishers and of the entity that is funding the research.



What does this mean for IRB Barcelona scientists?


  • Each lab will identify a contact person (GL, Facility Manager or other) for this issue, and inform
  • This person will inform of lab's publications (papers not signed by GL included) as soon as they are accepted.
  • The contact person will be asked to provide a file containing the “post-print” version of the article: the last version of the article after peer-review in raw format, before the journal’s layout process.
  • This file will then be submitted to the UB repository and will comply with the legally admitted embargo periods, as well as with the journal editor’s regulations.