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Implementing the FP7 Post-Grant OA Pilot pre-payment agreements

As mentioned in previous posts, the FP7 Post-Grant Open Access Pilot has now started implementing pre-payment agreements with a number of publishers: BioMed Central, Copernicus, Wiley and BMJ.

This requires a new set of workflows to be tested. So far we have usually been receiving funding requests for accepted manuscripts in fully Open Access journals via the OpenAIRE system. This is of course still the standard and recommended procedure to apply for funding. But from the beginning of June, we are also directly funding eligible manuscripts while still under review. The funding is of course not effectively granted until the manuscript gets accepted, but it can be secured earlier on by checking that the acknowledged FP7 projects in the manuscript meet the eligibility criteria.

Some of the implications of these new workflows are:
  • Much simpler admin requirements: no invoice is required anymore, which will save the researcher lots of time. A funding request into the OpenAIRE system is no longer required either.
  • Cheaper APC fees: discounts on the APC fees are regularly applied as part of the conditions in the pre-payment contracts. These discounts can be very relevant: for some of the eligible OA journals published by BMJ, the APC fee that will apply here is nearly half the nominal fee.
  • We need to be in direct contact with the corresponding author before the manuscript gets accepted in order to: (i) confirm that the authors want to receive the post-grant funding and (ii) that the project coordinator is aware of this and agrees with funding this specific manuscript.
  • This early-stage contact with corresponding authors is only possible if we get early notifications about submitted manuscripts currently under review. Publishers have so far been the main source of such notifications, but funding information is not an easy area to report on, and only two publishers have been able to provide periodic reports for FP7-funded manuscripts they have received: BioMed Central and Copernicus. The early results have been summarized in the Pilot's 7th progress report that was published last week.
  • We'd like to test if these notifications for submitted manuscripts could also be sent from from authors and institutions so that we can directly confirm the funding to them as early as possible in the process.
  • Much more effective interaction with authors and especially with project coordinators. Communications with them are now about a specific manuscript that will automatically be funded depending on their reply.
The rationale behind this unusual funder-driven pre-payment initiative is two-fold:
  • raising awareness of the funding initiative among many eligible FP7 projects that have had no activity thus far, and,
  • exploring the new dissemination opportunities for libraries and research offices. In our view, nothing should prevent libraries and research offices that have already proved their efficiency in dealing with this funding instrument on behalf of their researchers to start collecting information on submitted manuscripts. In the list of most effective institutions included at the bottom of the 7th progress report post, most of these have followed the suggested 'hub' approach where the library and/or the research office acts as a facilitator between the funding initiative and the eligible researchers.
This of course a somewhat bold proposal in an area like scholarly communications where due to competition pressures, uncertainty about acceptance or other reasons researchers are usually not eager to share information about submitted manuscripts. The admin and economic benefits described above are however crystal-clear and the time-saving service provided by the library and/or research office will be highly valued. In an ideal world, libraries and research offices could well become more proactive collaborators with the research groups if the trust could be developed that allowed this early-stage information to be regularly shared not just for this pilot but in general. For the time being, and given that this is far from being standard practice at the moment, we have designed a mechanism for sharing the information that will completely preserve the confidentiality about the manuscript details.

A few institutions have already agreed to jointly explore these new workflows with us. If you'd like to join the pool, please drop us a line at for more information.


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22 Jan 2020

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