The Open Research Area (ORA) originated as an agreement between ANR (France), DFG (Germany), ESRC (UK) and NWO (the Netherlands) to strengthen international co-operation in the social sciences through a common call for proposals to fund the highest quality joint research projects.

To date the partners have successfully completed four rounds of ORA, funding over 60 international collaborative proposals.

The Open Research Area has established itself as a model of international collaboration where funding is distributed among the national agencies according to the place of work of the researchers, and according to the funding rules of each agency. 

The ORA can be seen as fulfilling the European Commission's desire to see improved coordination and collaboration between teams of researchers from different member states, supported by funding organisations in those countries; as well as enabling research collaboration with major and emerging research nations beyond Europe.