Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Friday, February 16, 2007

Research Commissioner's opening address in Brussels

Janez Potočnik, 'Scientific Publishing in the European Research Area' – Access, Dissemination and Preservation in the Digital Age, the opening address at the Brussels conference of the same title (February 15-16, 2007).  Potočnik is the European Commissioner for Science and Research.  Excerpt:

...Let me start by addressing one question: why are we here? It’s a simple question and it has a simple answer: it is because the world has changed. And part of this change has been in the norms, the expectations and the demands of research and researchers.

It is important that we make progress in this area. Why? Because the EU's future depends on a knowledge society. The debate about how that knowledge is disseminated is fundamental. It takes in a lot of important issues – sales, copyright, jobs, access and funding. But ultimately, it's about the conditions for spreading knowledge.

Nearly all new research builds on previous work. So the access to scientific results, how rapidly this access is given and the cost of access all impact on research excellence and innovation....

But today's conference is not about previous adaptations [to the digital age], but future ones....

The European Commission has been closely following the debate on experiments with open access to scientific information. We have also been contributing to the debate through the study on the scientific publishing market that we commissioned last year.

I am aware that – sometimes controversial – discussions on open access are taking place between scientific publishers and the scientific community.

This was clear from the replies we received to our online consultation last year on the study. The consultation showed that while the respondents from the scientific community warmly received the report and its recommendations, the publishing industry was mostly critical of its methodology and conclusions....

I recognise the investment that the publishing industry has made over the years. It offers new tools, services and technologies in line with the digital revolution.  This has been highlighted in the Declaration on STM publishing adopted by the publishing community two days ago.

At the same time, the digital revolution has led the European scientific community to suggest that an alternative publishing model, with better access to research publications, could further stimulate research excellence and innovation.

In the EU, there have been two major recent statements on the issue.

In December 2006 EURAB - the European Research Advisory Board - composed of 50% research community and 50% industry representatives - recommended that the Commission (and I quote) “consider mandating all researchers funded under [the seventh Framework Programme] to lodge their publications resulting from EC-funded research in an open access repository as soon as possible after publication, to be made accessible within 6 months at the latest".

The second statement was by the Scientific Council of the European Research Council, Europe's new funding body for frontier research. It stated its “firm intention [...] to issue specific guidelines for the mandatory deposit in open access repositories of research results [...] obtained thanks to ERC grants”....

Just this morning, a research community delegation presented me with a petition of over 19.000 signatories from around the world calling on the European Commission to guarantee public access to publicly-funded research results shortly after publication.

The Commission has a role to play in this evolution and we have already made a first move. Yesterday, the Commission adopted a Communication on access to scientific information in the digital age. My colleague, Viviane Reding, will be discussing this more in detail later in the conference.

The Communication announces a series of measures on how the Commission will deal with open access in FP7 funded projects - and how it will use its funding programmes to improve the access to and the preservation of scientific information. This will include, for example, promoting the use of project costs for open access publishing under FP7.

I have outlined several positions. Allow me to give an idea of the factors influencing my position.

Over the next 7 years, the EU will invest over 54 billion euros in research and development. I want every euro of this funding to contribute in some way to developing a true European Research Area and creating a strong European knowledge society. That is my job. The European Commission, and, indeed, the European citizen, must get a good return on its investment.

So far, funding bodies and the public money more generally have tended to contribute multiple times to the research process.

They fund the research to be performed through research grants.

They also support peer review, in the sense that they usually pay reviewers’ salaries.

Finally, they often acquire the final scientific journal publications for research organisations.

From a research funding body's viewpoint, there is room to improve the impact of research on society and the development of knowledge....

The two main questions facing us today are to see:

  • First, how to offer the research community rapid and wide dissemination of results, facilitated by new information and communication technologies.
  • Second, how to combine this with fair remuneration for the scientific publishers who invest in tools and mechanisms to organise the information flows and the peer review system....