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Friday, February 16, 2007

The EC Communication on OA

I couldn't blog this earlier because the document wouldn't load for me.  But it loaded for Richard Poynder, who sent me a copy.  Many thanks, Richard.

On Scientific Information In The Digital Age: Access, Dissemination And Preservation, a Communication from the Commission of the European Communities to the European Parliament, the Council and the European Economic And Social Committee, Brussels, February 15, 2006.  Excerpt:

...The Community policy on research looks to maximise the socio-economic benefits of research and development for the public good. The present Communication represents an initial step within a wider policy process addressing how the scientific publication system functions and what impact it has on research excellence....

This Communication's objective is to signal the importance of and launch a policy process on (a) access to and dissemination of scientific information2, and (b) strategies for the preservation of scientific information across the Union. To this end, it announces a series of measures at European level and points to the need for a continuing policy debate....

5.1. Commission position

Initiatives leading to wider access to and dissemination of scientific information are necessary, especially with regard to journal articles and research data produced on the basis of public funding. With respect to journal articles, the Commission is observing and considering experiments with open access publishing.

Fully publicly funded research data should in principle be accessible to all, in line with the 2004 OECD Ministerial Declaration on Access to Research Data from Public Funding....

5.3. Future actions managed by the European Commission

A. Access to Community funded research results

Within FP7, the Commission will take measures to promote better access to the publications resulting from the research it funds. In this context, project costs related to publishing, including open access publishing, will be eligible for a Community financial contribution. The Commission will encourage the research community to make use of this possibility.

The Commission also envisages, within specific programmes (e.g. the programmes managed by the European Research Council), to issue specific guidelines on the publication of articles in open repositories after an embargo period. This would be done on a sectorial basis, taking into account the specificity of the different scholarly and scientific disciplines.

B. Co-funding of research infrastructures (in particular repositories) and projects

Within FP7 the Commission will intensify its activities regarding infrastructures relevant for access to scientific information, in particular by linking digital repositories at the European level. An amount of approximately 50 million will be made available to this end for the period 2007-2008 (some 20 million of which have been allocated for 2007).

In addition, an indicative amount of 25 million will be provided during this period (some 15 million of which during 2007) for research on digital preservation (in particular a network of Centres of competence for digital preservation) and on collaborative tools for using the content.

Within the eContentplus programme (2005-2008), 10 million has been earmarked to improve the accessibility and usability of scientific content, in particular addressing issues of interoperability and multilingual access....

6. Conclusion

Access to, dissemination of, and preservation of scientific information are major challenges of the digital age. Success in each of these areas is of key importance for European information society and research policies. Different stakeholders in these fields have differing views on how to move towards improvements for access, dissemination and preservation.

Within this transition process from a print world to a digital world, the Commission will contribute to the debate among stakeholders and policy makers by encouraging experiments with new models that may improve access to and dissemination of scientific information....


  1. I'm still digesting this and will have more to say in the March issue of SOAN.  But here's a first take, limiting myself to the hard-core OA issues.  (For example, I'm not commenting on the EC's plans for digital preservation, although I applaud them.)
  2. The Communication is weakest on the most important OA issue and strongest on the secondary issues.  The most important issue is recommendation A1 from last year's EC Report:  the proposed EU-wide OA mandate for publicly-funded research.  The Communication retreats from this position and does not say why.  Instead it says that EC will "issue...guidelines" on OA archiving of publicly-funded research.  It doesn't say whether the guidelines will require or merely encourage OA.  Moreover, the guidelines will vary by discipline and by funding program, so that even if the rules in some fields and programs are strong, others will be weak.
  3. On other, less essential policy issues, the Communication is strong.  For example, the EC will help pay publication fees at fee-based OA journals, a position I have supported for funding agencies that can afford it.  This policy provides unembargoed OA, supports a new generation of peer-review providers, and lessens --or ought to lessen-- the opposition of publishers.  (Unfortunately, the EC still uses the misleading term "author pays" for OA journals and still seems to believe that all OA journals charge author-side fees when in fact most of them do not.)
  4. The EC will also support a strong policy of OA for data, following the OECD Declaration on open data from January 2004, which the EU signed.  And it will spend a lot of money on OA infrastructure.  All of this is most welcome.
  5. The Communication is not the final EC policy and the guidelines for OA archiving are still under development.  There's still time for friends of OA to try to influence their direction, just as there's still time for an equal and opposite reaction from publishers who want to bury the possibility of an OA mandate.