OA in Belgium
The National Research Environment
Within the EU, Belgium has a strong reputation for R&D and innovation, primarily due to the high quality of its education and research facilities. There are two separate university systems in Belgium, six French-speaking universities (including two in Brussels) and 21 university colleges (‘hautes écoles’), and six universities and 22 university colleges (“hogescholen”) in Flanders (see full list of universities). Additionally there are several subject-based research institutions. The larger strategic research centres in Flanders are often participating in EU and other international projects and are significant actors in the ERA (e.g. IMEC, VITO, VIB), as is the Walloon Space research pole (Liège) or the bio-medical pole (Brussels-Charleroi).
This is a summary of the concise overview of the Belgian research landscape that can be found on the Erawatch-site National profile for Belgium.
The governance of the Belgian research system reflects the federal structure of the country.
- The Federal Science Policy office (BelSPO) coordinates science policy at the federal level as well as on an international level. The federal government also coordinates some research of national interest such as defence, space and polar research.
- The Flemish R&D system is governed by the Department of Economy, Science and Innovation (EWI). The main role of EWI is policy-making, execution and policy studies.
- Below the level of EWI, two key agencies for STI policy are the innovation agency IWT and the main funding channel for research at universities being the FWO-Vlaanderen. These agencies govern the various policy instruments and measures within the Flemish region aiming at science and innovation. PMV governs several funds and measures that facilitate start and risk capital. The Entrepreneurship Agency in Flanders plays a very modest role in S&T policy.
- On the French Community side, the regions (Wallonia and app. 80% of the budget of the Brussels-Capital Region) and the community are separate entities whereby the Ministry of the French Community governs the fundamental research aspects (mainly through the F.R.S-FNRS National Scientific Research Fund) and the education system, including all French-speaking universities (six French-speaking universities, including two in Brussels). The regional governments oversee applied and industrial research with economic development purposes, and support technology guidance and funding for interfaces between research organisations, industry and universities.
- The key agency within the Walloon administration is the DGO6 (Directorate General operational for Economy, Employment and Research).
- Brussels-Capital's R&D policy is governed by the Ministry of the Brussels-Capital Region and the implementing agency is INNOVIRIS (Brussels Institute for Research and Innovation).
Approximately two-thirds of Belgian research is performed in the business sector (67.1% in 2011). The role of research centers is very limited. Universities have a strong role in R&D policy making.
Major research funders
- www.frs-fnrs.be : FNRS Fonds (National) de la Recherche Scientifique
- www.fwo.be : FWO, the Research Foundation Flanders
- www.iwt.be : IWT the government agency for Innovation by Science and Technology
- www.iminds.be : IMinds is Flanders’ digital research & entrepreneurship hub.
- www.belspo.be : BELSPO Belgian Science Policy
- www.herculesstichting.be : investments in research infrastructure
- www.kbs-frb.be: Koning Boudewijnstichting
- BOF “Special Research Funds” are allocated annually by the Flanders Government to the universities, supporting fundamental research activities.
Funder mandates with regards to open access
ROARMAP lists 18 open access mandates in Belgium, either on funder or on institutional level. 2 funders Open Access mandates can be found on SHERPA/JULIET (FNRS and FWO). All Belgian Universities have recommendations or mandates in place requiring or requesting to make their research publications Open Access when archived, although with different levels of achievement/coercion. FWO, Belspo, Hercules and FNRS oblige their researchers to self-archive all articles coming from research funded by the FWO and FRS- FNRS, in OA repositories. In 2013, FWO announced plans to oblige funded projects to deposit relevant raw datasets in repositories as well, although there is a recommendation to do so there is no official policy yet.
Obviously, the policy of international funders on OA is applicable to Belgian researchers working with these funds.
Open Access in Belgium
Open Access projects and initiatives
In October 2012, at the National Open Access Day in Brussels, the three ministers of Science and Research signed the Brussels Declaration on Open Access, in which they agreed to make Open Access the default for all Belgian research output. All Parties also agreed to take the lead to see this realized in an Europe and worldwide context.
The University of Liège adopted an institutional ID/OA mandate (immediate deposit – optional access) in May 2007. The assessment of research performance and the evaluation of researchers within this university are linked to the depositing of scientific output in the institutional repository (ORBI). This model is often referred to as the “Liège model” internationally. In December 2009, Ghent University adopted an institutional ID/OA mandate too. L’Université Catholique de Louvain has adopted this model as well from January 1st 2013.
The University of Liège organized an Open Access meeting in 2007 resulting in the creation of Enabling Open Scholarship (EOS), whose goal is to unite universities and research institutions worldwide, particularly with regard to the creation, dissemination and preservation of research findings.
The Fund for Scientific Research (F.R.S.-FNRS) has recently adopted a policy regarding the mandatory deposit in institutional repositories of publications by funded researchers. It also chairs the Belgian Interuniversity Working Group on HORIZON 2020 for the monitoring of EU research policies. FNRS is a founding member of Science Europe (SE) and the European Science Foundation (ESF) and participates in several relevant working groups initiated by these organisations such as the working groups on: ‘Open Access to Data’ (SE);‘Open Access to Publications’(SE) and the ‘EMRC Expert Group on Open Access in Biomedical Research’(ESF). F.R.S.-FNRS was also responsible for the organisation of a European-wide conference entitled ‘Open Access Management and Policy’ in 2011. It is involved in several international and European initiatives such as ERA-Nets, Joint Programming Initiatives, etc and a parter of PASTEUR4OA. Within these networks of funders, common principles of data sharing and open access are often adopted, in particular regarding the grant holders funded through common calls for proposals.
Open Access repositories
Many universities and research institutions in Belgium run an institutional or subject-based repository. At present almost all universities and major university colleges have Open Access repositories. At present OpenDOAR list 22 Belgian repositories, 12 of which are OpenAIRE compatible (Jan. 2017). Available full-text contents include doctoral and licentiate theses, journal articles, conference papers, reports, books and book chapters.
In the World ranking of Repositories the Belgian repositories are doing well, with 3 repositories listed in the top 100 of repositories worldwide, namely those of the Catholic university of Leuven, The university of Liege and the university of Ghent. There is no overarching open access mandate but awareness of Open Access issues has been rising steadily and 17 institutions set open access mandates.
Open Access publishing
The Directory of Open Access Journals lists 30 Belgian titles (Jan. 2017), the majority of which do not charge APC’s and are funded by or established in collaboration with a research institution. The Belgian open access journal Geologica Belgica ranks third of all Belgian journals by the The SCImago Journal & Country Rank, ranked by journal impact.
The University of Ghent offers services to some Open Access Journals, providing an infrastructure and technical support: ojs.ugent.be
(Open) research data
The Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ) is a maritime institute that supports the free exchange of data. It therefor provides infrastructures and technologies to aid marine research. You can find an overview of there datasystems here: http://www.vliz.be/en/datasystems.
The Registry of Research Data Repositories, lists 28 more data repositories where Belgian institutions are involved. The complete list can be found on re3data.org.
Local governments as well as the federal goverment are in favor of Open Data and have put mandates in place to secure Open Access to government data. On the Open Data knowledge platform of the Flemish government a large number of data sets are available to consult and reuse. Apart from the governement and the repositories there are various other projects and initiatives supporting, implementing and researching Open Data and its possibilities.
- IMinds has a Big Data in Health project and a Linked Open Data Project supporting automatic linking and publishing of data.
- Belgian Biodiversity Platform provides free access to biodiversity data pertaining to Belgium
- INBO: manages or supports multiple databases and interactive applications concerning nature and ecosystems
- Vliz: provides assistance, technologies and tools to scientists and policy makers to support marine data management.
In addition to policy and bottom-up initiatives there are also initiatives that provide technical support for Open Data.
- Thedatatank is data management system providing technical support
- WILOD is the sucessor of RILOD and aims to link Flemish publications with data
- R&Wbase enables the distributed version control for linked data
- Linkedfragments explores interfaces to solve queries at the client side with server data.
Useful links and resources
There is a dedicated national portal. It provides information and news that relate to developments in OA in English and is targeted at the Belgian audience.
- About the research landscape in Belgium:
- National Contact Points