How scientists can comply with the H2020 open access mandate through self archiving

Very short version

  1. (optional) When you submit your article to a journal, upload that pre-print non-peer-reviewd version in a pre-print repository of your choice (e.g. Zenodo, MarXiv, …) with a CC-BY licence.
  2. When your article has been accepted, upload that post-print peer-reviwed version  in MarXiv (with the licence required by the publisher; e.g. it could be a CC-BY-NC-ND licence)
  3. Wait till the final paper is published in your selected journal.



Long version

One of the principles I’ve recently (a few years) tried to include in my daily work is to try and be as open as possible in the dissemination of my research (ispired by the Erin McKiernan’s pledge to be open). This has included also to disseminate all things related to open science to my colleagues, providing good examples and best practices; this post is an attempt to do so…

Recently, the Open Access policy in the H2020 EU funding programme has helped a lot in Europe to raise awarness on these topics and push and pull researchers towards the open science road, requiring to “ensure open access to all peer-reviewed scientific publications” based on H2020 funded projects.

This has to be done i) depositing publications in repositories and ii) providing open access to them. I don’t want to enter here in the details but my feeling is that the main concern for many researchers on this open access mandate is that they have to find money to publish their articles in gold open access or hybrid journals.

This is not the only way, because actually “self-archiving” (or green open access) is the first step always required by H2020 to make the articles open access, and self archiving usually is  without costs.

Disclaimers: I’m a researcher working in the marine/ocean domain, so I have here a strong focus on this research domain, trying to provide concrete examples to my colleagues.

Usually publishers don’t put any restriction in sharing pre-prints—i.e. version of the articles submitted to a journal before the peer review.

The issue with self archiving is that H2020 requires to archive the post-print—i.e. the one after the peer review but before the final typestting of the publisher—and this version usually suffers a couple of important limitations (given by publishers) to sharing: embargo and licence.

Taking as an example the publication policy of one of the main publishers, Elsevier, the embargo period for self-archived post-print versions of articles—i.e. the amount of time has to pass before the article becomes accessible—is 24 months, while the required licence to be applied is CC-BY-NC-ND.

The maximum embargo allowed in H2020 for environmental sciences is 6 months.

So, if you decide not to pay for gold open access (or for some reasons you can’t), the green road with Elsevier doesn’t comply with the H2020 open access mandate.

But Elsevier, in its Article sharing page, says that authors can share their accepted manuscript immediately via their non-commercial personal homepage or blog, and by updating a preprint in arXiv or RePEc with the accepted manuscript.

Don’t ask me why they mention only these two pre-print archives; but so far I (and many others) have interpreted this sharing option in a strict way, so excluding other not-mentioned repositories.

On July 3rd I had an exchange of information on Twitter with MarXiv on the possibility to include post-prints in their archive an the following are the two important tweets:

MarXiv had a discussion with Elsevier on the possibility to apply the same rules as for arXiv and RePEe, and finally updated its policies (, explicitly saying that “authors may replace their preprints with postprints (the author’s “accepted manuscript”), as MarXiv is treated as an established repository just like arXiv.

The only remaining limitation is that postprints must be licensed using a CC-BY-NC-ND license.

Two final additional hints on this:

  • I’d suggest also to always publish at the time of submission the pre-print version, so you can attach a fully open CC-BY licence and anyone, for any purpose, can immedialy access, read (and possibly cite) it;
  • As an additional input, not related to H2020 requirements, it is also worth noting that if author deposits postprint to their own “personal website or blog” that copy can then be shared anywhere without the embargo period thanks to CC-BY-NC-ND license. See this document by  (thanks again to MarXiv to have spotted this)

No more excuses: upload the post-print version of your marine/ocean scientific articles in MarXiv and share your reserch outcomes with the world.



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