Print this page

NWO Institutes to publish in Open Access form

‘It’s a question of pushing back boundaries and trying things out’

Open Access is the broad international movement that strives for free and open online access to scientific information, such as publications and data. This ensures a greater (digital) dissemination and findability of scientific results and, with that, a greater potential impact on science and society. ‘Thanks, in part, to Open Access, we were able to rapidly develop a vaccine against COVID-19’, said NWO president Marcel Levi during this introductory webinar on 19 April 2021. NWO is committed to Open Access. In September 2018, it joined cOAlition S: a group of national research funding bodies that tries to accelerate the transition to full and immediate Open Access as part of Plan S. Policy officer Jacqueline Mout from the NWO-I office: ‘Now that the implementation of Plan S as part of the NWO grant procedures has been arranged, it is fantastic that we also have policy to shape the ideology of Plan S within NWO-I.’

‘For many of the NWO Institutes, Open Access is nothing new. There are even institutes that already publish 90% of their articles in Open Access form. For some of the institutes, the policy that we’re now putting in place, is merely a formalisation of what they have been doing for many years’, explains Mout. At the NWO-I office, she coordinates the transition to Open Access and produces and rolls out the policy together with the institutes. In this process, NWO-I follows the NWO domain organisation policy rules (Open Access policy NWO 2016-2020) as much as possible. These were approved in June 2020.

Green route

According to Plan S, there are different ways – also called routes - of publishing in Open Access form: (1) Via the “golden route”, the publication appears in completely Open Access journals on publishers’ platforms. This route can entail costs. The publication costs, also referred to as article processing charges (APCs), are borne by the authors or their institutions. (2) Via the “hybrid route”, which concerns publishing in journals that fall under a transformative deal. In this type of deal, agreements are made between publishers and scientific institutions about Open Access publishing and reader access to the publishers’ channels. In the Netherlands, this is done by the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU). At present, NWO-I only participates in the transformative deal with Elsevier and negotiations are being held with the VSNU about possibilities to join other deals, since the VSNU has deals with (nearly) all large scientific publishers. (3) Via the “green route”, the full text of an academic publication is deposited in a ‘trusted’ repository, a publicly accessible database managed by a research organisation.
Mout: ‘In principle, our researchers may choose all three routes, but for the green route, in particular, it was necessary to outline policy. The NWO Executive Board wants to properly embed this route within the organisation because it aligns with the way in which the institutes have been working for many years. For the other routes, no policy framework is needed at present.’


NWO-I consists of nine different institutes, each of which operates in a different research field. Each field has its own approach to the publication of articles. Mout: ‘I graduated in astronomy, and during my graduation project, I browsed the ArXiv database for new articles each morning. Therefore, I could always find everything, and I was surprised that this is not the case in all disciplines. For the mathematics Institute CWI, Open Access publishing is the norm. They even have their own repository that you can consult via the CWI website. NSCR, however, operates within the tradition of the social sciences and law, where a very different publication culture prevails. They are not used to Open Access. That is one of the reasons why we will not be holding any of the institutes to account for their Open Access publishing performance in the first few years. Each institute will roll out the Open Access policy in its own manner. After a while, we will examine how far we have got, what the effects are, whether or not it is working well, whether there are responses from publishers, and whether more is needed to make the 100% switch to Open Access. It is important for our researchers to know that they can bring their questions and doubts about Open Access to their contact person at the institute, a librarian/information manager or me.’


Mout says that there is a discrepancy between the policy of the NWO domain organisation (NWO-D), and the NWO Institutes. ‘For the grants awarded from 2021 onwards, researchers will be required to retain the copyright of the articles they publish. However, many publishers insist that you transfer the copyright to them. As the writer of the article or designer of an image, you are then no longer free to do what you want with it. For researchers employed by NWO-I, the copyright on their work lies with NWO-I. At present, researchers accept that they have to transfer their copyright to a journal, and NWO-I has permitted that for years because it is very important for researchers to be able to publish in certain journals. However, Open Access aims to ensure that the entire article, including your copyright, continues to belong to the author or to NWO-I. Since NWO-I is an employer and not a research funding body, it is difficult to arrange a legal framework that ensures that the copyright does not have to be relinquished to the publishers. Furthermore, copyright law can be interpreted in several ways. That is why we have not included the right to retain our copyright in the policy that we are now rolling out, and we will wait and see for a while how things will develop.’


In the coming period, Mout together with her colleagues, will monitor how the rolling out of the Open Access policy within NWO-I proceeds. ‘We will come together three to four times per year with our ‘focus group Open Access’. These are the librarians, information managers and a number of researchers from the institutes. We will jointly examine how the situation develops and what the researchers’ responses are, and we will try to learn from each other. In addition to this, I am in regular contact with Hans de Jonge from the NWO Executive Board office, who is responsible for the Open Access policy within NWO-D.’

Pushing back boundaries

Policy concerning the green route has now been drawn up at the NWO Institutes. Researchers are still free to publish in any journal of their choice. They can publish in Nature, for example, as long as they place the article in their institute’s designated repository as soon as it has been published. ‘We’re still waiting to see what will actually happen in practice. So far, we have not received any complaints from the publishers’, says Mout, who acknowledges that it is a bit like walking a tightrope. ‘When Plan S was launched, you could tell there was anxiety about how the publishers might respond. It really is a question of pushing back boundaries and trying things out, as then the publishers are forced to make a move too. And it is clear that they are deliberating their next move. Whereas one publisher is taking a jump forwards towards Open Access, another is putting more behind a paywall. We are taking brave steps to advance the process, and so I call upon the institutes to keep the ball rolling!’

About Jacqueline Mout

Jacqueline Mout has worked as a senior policy officer within NWO-I for six years. Before that, she was a policy officer at the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW). Besides Open Access, she also contributes to the NWO-I diversity measures, policy related to the radio telescope LOFAR of NWO Institute ASTRON and she is the liaison officer for NWO Institute SRON. She is married, mother of a daughter aged 8 and a son aged 5, and has plenty of interesting hobbies besides work: she likes ballroom and Latin dancing, baking, drawing and painting.

More information

Open science
Open science stands for the transition to a new, more open and inclusive way of conducting, publishing and evaluating scientific research. A key aspect of this concept is working towards more collaboration and transparency in all phases of research. Amongst other things, this is achieved by sharing data, publications, software and results as early and as openly as possible. Besides Open Access, open science also touches upon themes such as scientific integrity, diversity and inclusion in recognition and rewards. You can read more about this on the website of the National Programme Open Science.

More information about Open Access
On the NWO-I website, you can find more information about the policy NWO has drawn up concerning Open Access. Highly accessible information about Open Access and why it is so important can also be found on the general joint “Open Access” website of NWO, TU Delft, University Libraries and National Library of the Netherlands, VSNU and SURF.

Open Access and university workgroups (BUW)
If you work in a university workgroup (BUW) and are therefore employed by NWO-I, the aforementioned Open Access policy plan does not apply to you. Please contact your workgroup leader should you have any questions about Open Access.

Text: Melissa Vianen
Newsletter Inside NWO-I, July 2021

Confidental Infomation