OpenAIRE2020 and the UK Research Office Conference

Each year the UK Research Office (UKRO) organises a two-day conference aimed primarily at European Liaison Officers, European research managers, Research Councils and policy makers. The 2017 edition of the UKRO Annual Conference took place from Thursday 22 to Friday 23 June at the Centre for Life in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. I attended the UKRO’s conference on behalf of Jisc as OpenAIRE’s National Open Access Desk for the UK.  UKRO is the European office of the UK Research Councils, which delivers a subscription-based advisory service for research organisations (in the main UK HEIs) and provides National Contact Point services on behalf of the UK Government. Its mission is to maximise UK engagement in EU-funded research, innovation and higher education activities.  As such, there were presentations from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA), the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), and Erasmus+, as well as anniversary celebrations for the ERC, the MSCA and Erasmus+.

In terms of some context, OpenAIRE’s primary aims include:

  • Making as many European funded research outputs available to all, via the OpenAIRE portal
  • Monitoring H2020 research outputs
  • Being a key part of the infrastructure for reporting H2020’s scientific publications, and
  • Supporting the EC’s Research Data Pilot through European-wide outreach for best research data management practices

Therefore, the inclusion of OpenAIRE in one of the three parallel sessions for an event for people and institutions working with EU-funded research was beneficial for us, and, I feel, as well as for those who attended. Often there remains some confusion with what OpenAIRE does as a project and the support we want to provide to those projects funded, either by H2020 or by those which belong to the FP7 Post-Grant pilot.  My session, entitled “Open Science” during the afternoon on the first day was well attended and the questions illustrated a great deal of interest in OpenAIRE now and its future plans. I focused on the history of the project since 2009, explaining that we are a project with over 50 partners and a human support network which provides assistance of training&support, policy development, and technical assistance.  I also spent some time explaining about Zenodo, OpenAIRE’s repository, as well as the fact that as an integrated project, we work not only with researchers and publishers, but with funders, too.  I also spent some time talking about the FP7 post-grant pilot and the alternative funding mechanism, which are funded by OpenAIRE2020, by showing the breakdown of funded projects by country; as of 30 April 2017, there had been 799 approved requests, of which 743 have been for research articles and 43 have been for books and monographs. The remainder concern conference proceedings and book chapters.  Both were meant to conclude at the end of April, but the end-date has been extended to January 2018, so there is still time to take advantage of some additional funding!  If anyone has any questions, please get in touch: info.openaire@jisc.ac.uk.

The entire event started off with a presentation on the Interim Evaluation Results for Horizon 2020 by Marnix Surgeon, from the EC’s Directorate-General for Research and Innovation.  H2020 had a budget of €77bn, tasked to cover both basic research and close-to-market innovation, with a 3 pillar approach but with one general objective: “to contribute to building a society and economy based on knowledge and innovation across the Union.”  Since its start, there’s been a radical simplification compared to FP7, BUT some of the key findings in the report suggest that its initial objectives remain valid; however, it also states that the EU continues to underinvest in R&I activities, lagging behind the US.  The review also pointed out the increased flexibility of the project, with the ability now to shift money to new needs – such as to the projects on Ebola or immigration.

In terms of the improvements still necessary, the report says that there is a need for an impact-focused, mission oriented approach, because challenges and objectives are not always clearly translated in specific calls and topics.  As well, comprehensiveness of evaluation feedback is a concern and there is also worry about the relatively low participation from the thirteen so-called “new” members, largely from Eastern Europe.  That said, the accomplishments are something to celebrate:

  • 340,000 researchers are currently supported
  • H2020 produced over 4000 peer-reviewed publications (2/3 as OA and cited more than 2x above the world average)
  • 17 Nobel prize winners are supported
  • 71% of ERC projects made scientific breakthroughs
  • 1 in 5 publications came from collaboration between academia and the private sector
  • There has been more interdisciplinary publications than FP7
  • It illustrates that H2020-funded projects are 40% more likely to be granted patents and are of higher commercial value than peers’ who were not funded
  • And it carries the overall message that Horizon2020 is attractive, well functioning but under-funded

The other two sessions I was able to take the most away from were the ERC’s talk on the “Return of the Synergy Grants” by Fiona Kernan and “Understanding the Model Grant Agreement – An Update” from David Mejuto, also from the EC’s Directorate-General for Research and Innovation.  Even before the day was done, I was already able to send important information about both of those presentations to interested researchers and to others participating in European-funded projects.  Slides from all the presentations are available via Sli.do and the Annotated Model Grant Agreement is also available for download.

In terms of the latter, there is quite a lot of detail and the link to the slide presentations helps a great deal with highlighting the changes to the agreement, which was published on the 21st of April 2017; the document gives information on such things as the 5 main novelties inherent in the update, as well as new rights, which are retroactive for all on-going grants – grants whose final financial reports had not yet been submitted on 27 Feb 2017 – as well as new obligations.  If an institution or organisation is receiving H2020 funding, it is incumbent on it to have a thorough read of the document and get in touch if there are any questions or issues.

With the ERC’s return of the Synergy Grants, Fiona Kernan gave some important background for why the grants went away for a time, highlighting now that their current funding is part of H2020, representing 17% of that budget, with €13bn.  Again, the slides are available, which give details on who can apply and the importance of the grants to researchers across the UK.

All in all, the conference was interesting and informative, and the participants went away with a lot to think about and report on, as well as a free 4D simulated ride on a bumble-bee at the Centre for Life!

 

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