All scientific articles in Europe must be freely accessible as of 2020. EU member states want to achieve optimal reuse of research data. They are also looking into a European visa for foreign start-up founders. And, according to the new Innovation Principle, new European legislation must take account of its impact on innovation. These are the main outcomes of the meeting of the Competitiveness Council in Brussels on 27 May.
Open access means that scientific publications on the results of research supported by public and public-private funds must be freely accessible to everyone. That is not yet the case. The results of publicly funded research are currently not accessible to people outside universities and knowledge institutions. As a result, teachers, doctors and entrepreneurs do not have access to the latest scientific insights that are so relevant to their work, and universities have to take out expensive subscriptions with publishers to gain access to publications.
Reusing research data
From 2020, all scientific publications on the results of publicly funded research must be freely available. It also must be able to optimally reuse research data. To achieve that, the data must be made accessible, unless there are well-founded reasons for not doing so, for example intellectual property rights or security or privacy issues.
Greater societal impact
The member states are also calling on the wider research world, including research funders, to introduce changes, for example by modifying the way scientists are assessed. They should be no longer be judged only on the number of publications or citations they produce, but more attention should be paid to the societal impact of their work. ‘Research and innovation provide the solutions to the social and economic challenges of the future,’ said Mr [Sander] Dekker [State Secretary for Education, Culture and Science, Netherlands]. ‘Open access breaks down the walls surrounding science and makes sure that society benefits as much as possible from all scientific insights. In that way, we maximise the impact of universities and knowledge institutions.’
Read the Complete Announcement (3 pages; PDF]
Additional Comment and Coverage
The Council supports a transition to immediate Open Access as the default by 2020 and calls for close monitoring on this goal (one which LERU supports, albeit not an easy ambition). LERU subscribes to the Council´s opinion that research data should be “as open as possible, as closed as necessary” and joins the Council in welcoming the European Commission´s intention of setting research data produced by Horizon 2020 as the default position. LERU also joins the Council in emphasising the importance of the FAIR principles (findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable) for the optimal reuse of research data and the benefits that may be brought about by the European Open Science Cloud.
Notwithstanding LERU´s positive reaction to the Council conclusions on Open Science, LERU differs in opinion from the Council on scientific publishing agreements. As LERU Secretary-General, Prof. Kurt Deketelaere, states: “The Council´s emphasis on the importance of clarity in scientific publishing agreements is welcomed but obviously insufficient. Clarity is good but, above all, transparency on the final agreement is needed when it comes to scientific publishing negotiations. For us, there’s a clear red line for non-disclosure agreements, because at the end of the day, it also involves, directly or indirectly, significant amounts of tax payers money.”
The council provides few details on how countries can make a full transition to OA in less than 4 years. And given OA’s slow march over the past 15 years, some see the target as overly optimistic—if not unrealistic. (LERU calls it “not an easy ambition.”) Even the Netherlands, which is considered an OA frontrunner in Europe, until recently had as its official target to reach full OA for Dutch scientific papers by 2024.
But Harnad says the goal is “reachable.” What the European Union needs to do is require that its scientific output is deposited in institutional repositories, an option called Green OA. The Dutch government favors Gold OA, in which authors publish in an OA journal; the council does not express a preference for either route.
From The Guardian: All scientific papers to be free by 2020 under EU proposals
The Competitiveness Council, a gathering of ministers of science, innovation, trade and industry, agreed on the target following a two-day meeting in Brussels last week. The council said this data must be made accessible unless there were well-founded reasons for not doing so, such as intellectual property rights or security or privacy issues.
Video: Competitiveness Council Press Conference
Additional EC Open Science Resources