To cope with this flood of new information, researchers are increasingly turning to text and data mining. Academics use algorithms to sift through existing discipline literature, vast databases of experimental data, or the leftovers from our online lives. From this they can understand, for example, how certain vocabulary has risen and fallen in popularity over the decades, or build new databases of microbes by automatically reading new research.
But in the European Union, there is a problem: research organisations say that publishers, which own the rights to many of these crucial databases, prevent them from taking full advantage of this new technology, and are fighting for a change in the law.
But academics in Europe could soon be granted an exemption from the need to worry about infringing copyright by a new EU directive currently being scrutinised by the European Parliament. As well as making life easier for scientists, the European Commission hopes a blanket exemption across the EU will smooth cross-border collaboration. At the moment, EU member states are free to enact their own exemptions, but so far only the UK has done so.
For now, observers hope that the directive will come into force next year – or possibly at the end of 2017 if European legislators act quickly.
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