What is an embargo period?
An embargo period is a specified length of time in which academic journals have the exclusive right to disseminate an article. Publishers impose embargo periods mainly to recap the costs of publishing.
Embargo period of grant providers
Grant providers, such as NWO and the EU, allow only a limited embargo period for research articles that came about as a result of their funding. Horizon2020, the currently active funding programme of the European Commission, demands that all research output financed by the EU is freely accessible in a repository for scientific publications after an embargo period of maximum six months, with an exception of twelve months for social sciences.
Discrepancy between Publishers and Funders
A major problem with the embargo period is that many journals impose a longer embargo period than is permitted by grant providers such as the EU. As a result, many articles that are demanded to be open access by their funders (read: tax payers) are still only accessible via subscriptions or against high prices.
Most funders do not ensure the embargo period of research articles they funded is lifted on schedule.
The embargo period usually sets in from the date articles are published. After the embargo period ends, publishers lift or lower the barriers to end users and authors are allowed to disseminate their articles by their own means. Embargo periods usually last to up to a maximum of one year, but can be imposed for a couple of years.
The table below shows the embargo period for 10 journals published by Elsevier and Taylor & Francis. Which access barriers to an article remain once the embargo period is expired, depends on the copyright licence in the publishing agreement.
Embargo period for 10 journals of top publishers
|Advances in Medical Sciences||Elsevier||12 months|
|Computer Communications||Elsevier||18 months|
|Clinical Psychology Review||Elsevier||24 months|
|Business Horizons||Elsevier||36 months|
|Youth Theatre Journal||Taylor & Francis||18 months|
|Women's Reproductive Health||Taylor & Francis||12 months|
|Cell No.2||Elsevier||12 months|
|The Lancet No.1||Elsevier||6 months|
|Aerosol Science and Technology||Taylor & Francis||12 months|
- Horizon2020 AGA, official EC Horizon2020 Annotated Model Grant Agreement
- EU Horizon2020 website, European Commission Horizon2020 documentation
- Horizon2020 open access guidelines, official European Commission Horizon2020 Guidelines to the Rules on Open Access to Scientific Publications and Open Access to Research Data in Horizon 2020