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EC to promote open access publishing

BMJ 2007; 334 doi: (Published 22 February 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;334:389
  1. Rory Watson
  1. Brussels

    The European Commission is considering a series of initiatives to promote open access publishing as part of moves to disseminate scientific information as widely as possible.

    The online consultation exercise that it ran last year showed that open access aroused conflicting views, with widespread support from the scientific community but strong opposition from the publishing industry.

    The commission has come down on the side of the scientific community. It maintains that publicly funded research data should, in principle, be accessible to all, and it considers that wide access to research results is important to the commission's objective of making the European Union the world's most competitive economy.

    Janez Potoènik, EU science and research commissioner, told a conference on scientific publishing in Brussels last week, “Nearly all new research builds on previous work. So, access to scientific results, how rapidly this access is given, and the cost of access all impact on research excellence and innovation.”

    He also emphasised that pressure for free and wide access is growing. The Wellcome Trust has recently stated that any research it supports financially must be deposited in a public repository within six months of publication.

    On the morning of the conference, the commissioner himself had received a petition from a delegation from the research community, with 19 000 signatures calling on the commission to guarantee public access to publicly funded research results shortly after publication.

    In a new discussion paper, the commission confirms that it will promote better access to the publications that result from research it is intending to fund to the sum of €54bn (£36bn; $71bn) from the EU budget over the next seven years.

    Open access publishing projects will be eligible for EU funding, and finance is being allocated to develop the infrastructure that will give access to scientific information. Some €50m is being used to link digital repositories over the next two years. A further €25m will be directed at research on digital preservation, and €10m has been earmarked to improve the accessibility and usability of scientific content.

    Later this year the commission will launch a study on the economic aspects of digital preservation and organise a big conference on scientific publishing in Europe. When the commission reviews legislation for value added tax, it will also consider the impact of tax on scientific publications.

    The discussion paper notes that as publications move from the print world to a digital world, the commission will encourage “experiments with new models that may improve access to and dissemination of scientific information.”

    According to the commission document, there are some 2000 scientific journal publishers globally, producing about 1.4 million articles a year. Of these publishers, just fewer than 800 are in the EU, accounting for 49% of the total journal output. Currently, 10% of all articles are published in open access journals.


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