2 March 2022

Open Science Stories

Open Access’ best-kept secret?
2 March 2022
Author: Marjet Elemans, Open Science Specialist, Data Management and Library

Easy Open Access 

There is an easy way to make your publications Open Access: simply fill in a form and publications that are not already openly available will be made available on the TU/e research website six months after first online publication. 

Now you may wonder: but how? Wasn’t there this thing with publishers’ conditions, long delays and previous versions? The answer is: it’s the law. Since 2015 a modification to Dutch copyright law, popularly known as the Taverne amendment, gives researchers funded by Dutch public money the right to share their work openly.  

It’s the law, but how? 

As is the case with laws, the phrasing required further elaboration. The law spoke of "the maker", "a short scientific work", "a reasonable period" and "first publication". The Dutch Universities (UNL, formerly VSNU) have jointly translated this into: “authors affiliated to our universities are allowed to share journal publications, conference proceedings and chapters in edited collections, six months after first online publication”. With this translation in hand a pilot project was started to test the publishers’ response.  

At TU/e, we initially invited a rather small selection of researchers to make use of this right and allow us to share their work under the Taverne amendment. This was quite a cautious approach and in all honesty, it did help to keep it a well-kept secret; still not many researchers were aware of the amendment after we finished our pilot.  

Unknown is unloved 

Last summer we decided to step up our game and approached all researchers with 2019 publications to which access in our repository was still restricted with the same invitation. The response was overwhelming. Some stats: more than 40% of invited researchers took up the offer (which is – in our field of expertise – a huge response), we made 30% of all closed access 2019 papers available which added 10% to our total Open Access score of that year. 

What’s more, the majority of researchers taking up the offer did not only make their 2019 publications Open Access but opted to make all their past and future (TU/e) articles available under the amendment. Adding about 10% to our Open Access score in the last years and making TU/e frontrunner among the Dutch universities. We were happy. 

Happy researchers 

And the responding researchers were also happy. Looking back at the difference in responses between the pilot attempt back in 2019 and now, we asked the researchers why they were so enthusiastic about Taverne. Things we heard back – even if sometimes with a little nudging – were: 

“I have always investigated new ways to publish my contents open access. Taverne amendment provided me with the option of publishing my work open access, with only a 6-month delay, without worrying on how I could fund it.” 

”The reason to make use of the Taverne amendment was that it is a cost-free open access route, also for journals for which there is no arrangement to cover publication costs. What I liked is the ease of setting it up. Because of the excellent support, it takes hardly any efforts to arrange it.“ 

“I like the initiative as it makes it easy for scientists to share their results open access. This option allows you to comply with open access legislation in a way that is acceptable for all parties.” 

This strengthened us in our plan to make the Taverne amendment part of our structural offer of open access options: all authors of closed-access publications will – as of February 2022 – be invited to make use of this legal right to share their work.  

Some small print 

Of course, there are some disclaimers to mention.  

Firstly, as said before, the Taverne amendment only applies to research funded ‘in part or in whole’ by Dutch public money. However, research performed at a Dutch university is – independent of funding grant – considered to be funded at least in (small) part by Dutch public money based on first-stream money spent on organization, infrastructure and other services. In principle, Taverne does not apply to publications from a previous position at a foreign university.  

Secondly, the Taverne amendment does not necessarily enable you to comply with funders’ Open Access requirements. Let’s start with the good news: publications funded by Horizon 2020 grants can make unrestricted use of the amendment and meet their funders’ requirements. Unfortunately, if you are funded by NWO or the Horizon Europe programme, it is not possible to comply with your funder’s Open Access requirements using the Taverne amendment.  

Lastly, the Taverne amendment gives the right-to-share exclusively to the authors of the publication. In order to transfer both responsibility and hassle from the author to the university, the Dutch universities have drawn up an agreement that enables the university to exercise these rights for the author. This also means that, should a publisher oppose the use of the amendment for their publication, responsibility lies with the university and not with the author.  

This might make you wonder, did any publisher oppose thus far? 

No, they did not. While thousands of publications have been made available in the Netherlands using this legal right to share, not a single publisher has requested access to those publications to be restricted again. 

Open Access’ best-kept secret? 

So, is the Taverne amendment Open Access’ best-kept secret? 

Yes, it might be and we take full responsibility. Implementation at TU/e started off cautiously and many researchers were not aware of this option. However, we are now all set up to support all of you who wish to make use of the amendment. Go and spread the word.  

NB. We can imagine you have some questions after reading this blog. Feel free to contact us at openaccess@tue.nl.