Funding: what requirements do funders impose in regard to open access?

Both funders which provide research funding like DFG or BMBF – as well as research organisations such as the Fraunhofer Society, the Helmholtz Association, the Leibniz Association and the Max Planck Society – are actively involved in the field of open access and reflect this in their funding programmes. The European Commission has also made open access publishing of journal articles mandatory in its research funding programmes. 

The Sherpa Juliet database contains general information on the requirements stipulated by research funding bodies in regard to open access. Please consult the funding guidelines issued by the individual institutions for more information. 

Recommendations and requirements regarding open access specified by selected institutions

The section provides an overview of the open access requirements stipulated by selected funders. If an institution does not appear in this list, that does not imply that it sets no requirements regarding open access publishing.

German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)

The BMBF strongly recommends open access. By amending German copyright law, it has established a legal basis for self-archiving to enable authors to make their publications openly accessible. The condition set by the BMBF is that at least half of the funding for the research must come from the public purse. The BMBF has set up a post-grant-fund for publications emanating from already terminated projects. For further information (German only)

The programme „Accelerating the open access transformation” currently funds 20 projects which advance the transformation of publication culture to open access.

German Research Foundation (DFG)

The DFG supports open access (OA) and promotes open access publishing in a number of different ways:

The “Open Access Publication Funding” programme offers allowances to assist with the cost of publishing articles under open access. Only academic institutions may apply for these allowances, and they must be managed centrally (e.g. by the library). The aim of the funding programme is to encourage the development of new structures of OA publication funding while also creating greater transparency of the sums spent on OA publishing.

Publications must meet various criteria to be eligible for allowances under the funding programme. For example, they must:

  • have been written by a corresponding author who is based at the institution that is submitting the application,
  • be quality assured,
  • be under an open content licence (e.g. Creative Commons) that creates a legally binding framework for any subsequent use.

Ideally, publications should be provided with a persistent identifier such as a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) and linked to the authors’ ORCID profiles. Articles published in hybrid journals for which no transformation agreements have been signed are not eligible for allowances under this funding programme.

As well as subsidising the cost of articles in OA journals, the funding programme also assists with the cost of publishing OA monographs and anthologies. It also covers other publication types such as preprints and research data. Allowances shall only be granted in cases where publishing costs are charged. Additional conditions apply in each of these cases. Other kinds of publication costs, such as surcharges for over-length articles or colour figures, are not covered by this funding programme.

The funding programme is divided into two stages:

  • In the first phase, which runs until 2023, institutions can apply for allowances for all OA publications that meet the criteria.
  • In the second phase, starting from 2024, applications for allowances will only be accepted for publications produced within the context of DFG projects.

Publishing funds applied for within the framework of DFG research projects can continue to be used for OA publications. However, we recommend asking the library about centralised funding options beforehand.

The “Infrastructures for Scholarly Publishing” programme supports projects for scholarly publishing as part of the digital turn and in line with the needs of research. Proposals can be submitted in three focus areas “Structures for Transitioning to Open Access”, “Open Access Infrastructures”, and “Digital Publishing”.

European Commission – Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe

Projects funded as part of the EC's framework programme for research and innovation are required to accept a mandate specifying that the scientific results must be published as open access. Following the completion of the peer review process, the publications must be made available at no charge with a licence that at the very minimum allows users to read, download and print the articles. Measures should also be taken to improve the article's accessibility, including granting a right to copy, distribute, search, link, crawl, and mine.

This mandate initially only applies to peer-reviewed publications in scientific journals. The requirements are not mandatory for any other publications such as monographs, edited volumes (collections), conference papers and grey literature, though open access publishing is still recommended in these cases, too. 

The mandate in no way implies an obligation to publish project results, however. If an author wishes to apply for a patent, for example, then that process may be completed first, and the decision on whether or not to publish lies entirely with the fundees.

According to the guidelines issued by the European Commission, the act of making a publication publicly accessible consists of two key steps: 

1) Funding beneficiaries must deposit a machine-readable electronic copy of the published version or final peer-reviewed manuscript accepted for publication (postprint) in an institutional or subject-specific repository, at the latest upon the date of publication. To ensure long-term preservation of the article, this step must be followed even where open access publishing ('gold' open access) is chosen. Moreover, the author of the article must aim to deposit the research data needed to validate and reproduce the results presented in the deposited scientific publication, ideally into a research data repository. Beneficiaries must also ensure open access to the bibliographic metadata. This metadata must include information on the funding programme as well as the project name, acronym and grant number, the publication date, the length of embargo period if applicable, and a persistent identifier (e.g. DOI).

2) The next step is to ensure permanent open access to the deposited publication. This can be achieved through publication in an open access journal (gold open access) or self-archiving (green open access). If green open access is chosen, the publication must be made available within a maximum of six months (12 months for publications in the social sciences and humanities). The author processing charges (APCs) for gold open access (i.e. publication in full open access journals and also hybrid open access journals) are eligible for reimbursement during the duration of the funded project, though it is important these are included in the project's budget. A solution is currently being developed for the cost of gold open access publications incurred after the end of projects, which is currently not eligible for reimbursement. 

The European Commission recommends that authors retain their rights and only grant publishers the rights that are required for the purpose. To make it easier for authors to enforce the mandate towards publishers a model addendum to publication agreements is provided. Creative Commons licences are recommended: Go to Guidelines to the Rules on Open Access to Scientific Publications and Open Access to Research Data in Horizon 2020.

Similar or stricter requirements also apply to the programme “Horizon Europe”. A comparison of the requirements is available on the webpage.
Additionally the publishing platform “Open Research Europe” is offered which can be used to comply with the open access mandates. Publication fees are paid by the European Commission. The platform can also be used to publish results from “Horizon 2020” projects. Go to platform

cOAlition S and Plan S

cOAlition S is an alliance of European research funding organisations that aims to secure Open Access to research publications funded by national funding bodies. The initiative, known as Plan S, requires that, from 2021 onwards, the results of publicly funded research projects must be published in Open Access journals/platforms or in repositories that meet specific criteria. These requirements are specified in the implementation guidelines. Compliance with Plan S can be achieved through both “gold” and “green” Open Access publishing:

  • Immediate publishing in an Open Access journal or on an Open Access platform with peer review (gold OA). The journal/platform must be listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals or in the process of being accepted and is not permitted to have a mirror/sister subscription journal.
  • Self-archiving in a repository that meets certain requirements regarding metadata and technical details (green OA). Self-archiving must be possible without delay (embargo).

Publications must be openly accessible and published under the Creative Commons Attribution CC BY 4.0 license (or, where applicable, CC-BY-SA or CC0). Authors retain their rights in full (i.e. full copyright retention). Publication in hybrid journals – in other words subscription journals with an Open Access option – is not permitted. The only exception to this rule are subscription journals that are covered by a transformative agreement and that have a clear and time-specified commitment to a full Open Access transition. Research funders shall support the financing of publication fees and the filling of gaps in OA infrastructure. The primary focus for 2021 is on publications in scholarly journals. For monographs and book chapters there are recommendations and links to existing policies issued by the member institutions.

Non-compliance may result in sanctions. Each individual research funder will state in their own funding terms and conditions which projects are subject to the guidelines and which sanctions apply.

More details on the requirements can be found in the implementation guidance document: Accelerating the transition to full and immediate Open Access to scientific publications

The cOAlition S website contains more information on participating research funders and all the latest developments: cOAlition S Website.

The „Journal Checker Tool“ provides information to what extent journals comply with Plan S requirements. Go to Tool

See also

Electronic self-archiving: what are the key issues to consider when self-archiving publications in open access repositories (including document servers and online archives) or on websites?
Creative Commons licences: What do Creative Commons licenses offer?
Publication fees: what are the different ways of covering article processing charges?


Important note: The information and links provided here do not represent any form of binding legal advice. They are solely intended to provide an initial basis to help get you on the right track. ZB MED – Information Centre for Life Sciences has carefully checked the information included in the list of FAQs. However, we are unable to accept any liability whatsoever for any errors it may contain. Unless indicated otherwise, any statements concerning individual statutory norms or regulations refer to German law (FAQ updated 08/2021).