Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Monday, April 03, 2006

EC recommmends OA archiving for publicly-funded research

The European Commission has released its lengthy (108 pp.) and long-awaited report, Study on the Economic and Technical Evolution of the Scientific Publication Markets in Europe. (Thanks to INIST-CNRS.) The report is dated January 2006 but was not apparently released until today. The underlying inquiry was announced in June 2004. Excerpt:
Aware of current public debates that reveal worries about the conditions of access and dissemination of scientific publications, the European Commission’s Directorate- General for Research has commissioned a study that seeks: (i) to assess the evolution of the market for scientific publishing; and (ii) to discuss the potential desirability of Europeanlevel measures to help improve the conditions governing access to and the exchange, dissemination and archiving of scientific publications (taking into account all actors/ stakeholders of the sector)....The report considers the specificities of the market for current journal issues. In doing so, it discusses the broad facts about the market; it undertakes a quantitative analysis of journal prices; it discusses the implications of technological innovation on pricing strategies and the dynamics of entry; and it analyzes the implication of these developments in terms of competition policy. It also discusses the various alternatives for disseminating and accessing scientific publications. This includes the question of access to research results on individual web pages or in public repositories, the development of openaccess journals as well as other alternatives, such as pay-per-view, the question of the longterm preservation of electronic publications and the use of standards to ensure interoperability between systems....[M]uch of scientific activity is publicly funded: the output of research is typically not bought by journals but ‘donated’ by publicly-funded researchers; so are to a large extent refereeing services for the evaluation of research; and finally, journals are bought by publicly-funded researchers or, more often now, by publicly-funded libraries. It is therefore crucial for public authorities to form a view on the relative efficiency of the scientific publication process.... In view of the libraries’ ongoing budgetary difficulties and of the opportunities provided by information technologies, and acknowledging the significant part of public funds involved in the scientific publishing process, a movement in favor of open access to scientific information has gained scale in the research community and research-related organizations. Declarations in favor of open access, such as Budapest Open Access Initiative and the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities, were signed by thousands of individuals and by major research institutions and research funding bodies around the world. These concerns about access to research results have been echoed by the civil society (e.g. at the World Summit on the Information Society) and by political bodies at national and international levels (e.g. the OECD Declaration on Access to Research Data from Public Funding). In the UK, the House of Commons (2004) recommended that public funding agencies require open access to publicly-funded research through deposit of the publications in the authors’ institutional repositories. Following these declarations and recommendations, several important research funding bodies have established policies urging their funded researchers to publish in open access journals, offering to pay the publication fees if any, and/or to deposit their articles in an open access repository (e.g. the US National Institutes of Health, the UK Research Councils, the Wellcome Trust, CERN…). These policies have raised publishers and learned societies’ concerns about the potential threat on their existence and activities: they fear that as articles become freely available in open archives and as search, access and retrieval facilities are enhanced by search engines and interoperability, journal subscriptions will be cancelled, thereby undermining the viability of their journals. Starting from this global economic and research-policy context, this report provides an independent analysis of the conditions regarding access and dissemination of research results, with a view to maximizing societal returns on R&D investments....

The evidence discussed in Sections 3 to 5 points however to a market where publishers do enjoy market power. This means that access can be improved significantly before one has to start worrying about threatening this reader/library-pay model. At present, immediate access can be achieved through individual web pages, through open access repositories or archives collecting e-prints deposited by their authors, and through open access journals which rely on various sources of income. In some countries, public authorities have funded large-scale projects to develop portals providing free online access to selected scholarly journals published in their countries (e.g. SciELO in Latin American countries, J-STAGE in Japan, various projects in India). As an increasing volume of research output from outside Europe becomes openly accessible, it raises the question of the visibility and accessibility, and of the subsequent potential impact, of European research as most articles by European researchers are published in subscription-based journals. In this respect, policies like those put in place by the U.S. NIH, the UK Research Councils or the Wellcome Trust – which promote open availability of research results no later than 12 months after publication – could be emulated across Europe, after discussions with the publishers. The aim could be to ensure that published European-funded research (at EU, national, or regional levels) be deposited in standardized open archives some time after publication. Recent surveys show that a majority of researchers seem willing to self-archive their articles if induced to do so by their employer or funding body....It is worth noting that, if the research funding authorities want to ‘give a chance’ to the author-pay model, they have to allow for a ‘level-playing field’ in comparison with the reader/library-pay model, that is, provide funding for publication costs and not only for library budgets....[T]here is a central role for funding bodies to define policies which will improve access and dissemination of publications, especially in terms of self-archiving requirement....

RECOMMENDATION A1. GUARANTEE PUBLIC ACCESS TO PUBLICLY-FUNDED RESEARCH RESULTS SHORTLY AFTER PUBLICATION. Research funding agencies have a central role in determining researchers’ publishing practices. Following the lead of the NIH and other institutions, they should promote and support the archiving of publications in open repositories, after a (possibly domain-specific) time period to be discussed with publishers. This archiving could become a condition for funding. The following actions could be taken at the European level: (i) Establish a European policy mandating published articles arising from EC-funded research to be available after a given time period in open access archives, and (ii) Explore with Member States and with European research and academic associations whether and how such policies and open repositories could be implemented.

Also see the HTML splash page for the report. The EC is soliciting comments on the report; please send them to by June 1, 2006.

Comment. This is big. Recommedation A1 doesn't directly call for an OA mandate to publicly-funded research, but it does call for a "guarantee" of OA, asserts that OA archiving "could become a condition of funding", and proposes that a mandate is one action that "could be taken at the European level". If the authors are distinguishing a guarantee from a mandate, then I'd like to hear more about it. But "even" a guarantee would be extremely welcome. Moreover, the recommendation calls for OA "shortly after publication". I hope this report strengthens the final draft of the RCUK policy, triggers the adoption of OA policies at the national level across Europe, and increases the odds that the nascent European Research Council will mandate OA to ERC-funded research.