Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Free movement of knowledge for the EU

The EU Research Commissioner, Janez Potocnik, is proposing to make "movement of knowledge" a fifth freedom alongside the movement of goods, services, capital, and labor guaranteed by the EU Treaty.  He spells out his concept in a new green paper, The European Research Area: New Perspectives, April 4, 2007.  Excerpt:

3.4.  Sharing knowledge

Generation, diffusion and exploitation of knowledge are at the core of the research system. In particular, access to knowledge generated by the public research base and its use by business and policymakers lie at the heart of the European Research Area, where knowledge must circulate without barriers throughout the whole society.

State-of-the-art knowledge is crucial for successful research in any scientific discipline. Reliable, affordable and permanent access to, and widespread dissemination of, scientific research results should therefore become defining principles for Europe's research landscape. The digital era has opened up numerous possibilities in this respect. Opportunities for progress can be seen, notably in the development of online libraries, repositories of scientific information and databases of publications and publicly funded research results. These should be integrated at European level and interlinked with similar databases in third countries. In particular, the system by which scientific information is published is pivotal for its validation and dissemination, and thus has a major impact on the excellence of European research22. Europe should stimulate the development of a 'continuum' of accessible and interlinked scientific information from raw data to publications, within and across different communities and countries....

A major hindrance is the inconsistent, and often inadequate, rules and approaches for managing intellectual property rights (IPR) resulting from public funding. The Commission has identified good practice and models of knowledge sharing between the public research base and industry which will serve to inspire further action at both EU and national levels....

At several points throughout the paper he inserts a text box with unanswered questions, as if for future discussion.  The only mention of open access comes up in Question 21:

Is there a need for EU-level policies and practices to improve and ensure open access to and dissemination of raw data and peer-reviewed publications from publicly funded research results?

Potocnik doesn't mention in this green paper that the EC received strong "yes" answers to this question from an EC-sponsored study in 2006, a December 2006 statement from the Scientific Council of the European Research Council (ERC), and a January 2007 report from the European Research Advisory Board (EURAB).  His own February 2007 Communication on the subject gave a "yes" answer as well (p. 7):  "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."  It's a little late to treat this merely as a topic for future discussion.  It's time to firm up the EC's commitment to the answer and to act on it.

Also see the press release on his green paper.

Update. The EC will welcome public comments on Potocnik's green paper from May 1 to August 31, 2007.