Open Access News

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Friday, November 23, 2007

EU Council of Ministers recommendations on OA

Today the Council of the European Union released the Council Conclusions on scientific information in the digital age: access, dissemination and preservation.  (Thanks to three friends who sent me word simultaneously.)  Excerpt:

The Council of the European Union...Recognises...

  • that over the past years scientific libraries' capacity to provide researchers with access to a wide range of publications has been affected by rising overall prices of scientific journals (including electronic distribution of publications);
  • the strategic importance for Europe’s scientific development of current initiatives to develop sustainable models for open access to scientific information.


  • the need to ensure rapid and wide access to publicly funded research results;
  • that Member States have a strong interest in an efficient scientific information system that maximises the socio-economic impact of public investments in research and technological development;
  • the importance of scientific output resulting from publicly funded research being available on the Internet at no cost to the reader under economically viable circumstances, including delayed open access;
  • the cross-border nature of many research endeavours, of their funding sources, and of their dissemination channels;
  • the importance of better access to unprocessed data and repository resources for data and material that allows fresh analysis and utilisation beyond what the originator of the data had envisaged;
  • that new forms of electronic communication have the potential to enable open access to data and scientific publications, and provide a unique opportunity for the open development of specific data mining, analysis and integration tools, possibly enhanced by common format standards; ...

Takes note

  • of recent reports calling on the Commission to improve access to results stemming from the research it funds, including reports of the European Research Advisory Board and the European Research Council's Scientific Council supporting open access to Community funded research results;
  • of the intention of the Commission to support further research on the scientific publication system, and to carry out a study on the economic aspects of digital preservation.

Invites the member

  • reinforce national strategies and structures for access to and preservation and dissemination of scientific information, tackling organisational, legal, technical and financial issues;
  • enhance the co-ordination between Member States, large research institutions and funding bodies on access, preservation and dissemination policies and practices;
  • maximise access for researchers and students to scientific publications, in particular by improving public procurement practices in relation to scientific information; this could include exchanging information on these practices and increasing the transparency of the contractual terms of "big deals", and exploring the possibilities for funding bodies, research institutions and scientific publishers from different Member States to work together in order to achieve economies of scale and efficient use of public funds by demand aggregation; ...

[and] Invites the Commission to...

  • monitor good practices in relation to open access to European scientific production, including those arising from large scale experiments by scientific communities and large research institutions, and encourage the development of new models that could improve access to European scientific research results;
  • monitor the current situation of public virtual scientific libraries in the EU and other ongoing developments across Europe relating to access of students and researchers to scientific information and to its digital preservation, as well as the relevant legal framework conditions that may have an impact on access to this information;
  • experiment with open access to scientific data and publications resulting from projects funded by the EU Research Framework Programmes in order to assess the appropriateness of adopting specific contractual requirements;
  • encourage research into digital preservation, as well as experiments on and wide deployment of scientific data infrastructures with cross-border, cross-institution and crossdiscipline added-value for open access to and preservation of scientific information;
  • support and contribute to improving policy co-ordination and to fostering a constructive debate and exchange of information between stakeholders.

The document annex is a recommended timetable for the member states and EC to take the steps described in the body of the document.


  • The document is especially good on the previous studies and recommendations that should inform EU policy, on the general problems for which OA is a solution, on the special problems within Europe that require a EU-wide solution rather than just a series of separate solutions by member states, and on the value or urgency of solving these problems.  However, its specific policy proposals are stronger on TA resources, where it recommends procurement reforms, than on OA resources, where it recommends only experiments.  It's as if it added two and two, and got three.
  • In May 2007, the same Council recommended "wide public access" to the uncopyrightable results of publicly-funded research, which I interpreted to mean data rather than peer-reviewed articles.  In that sense, it went no further than the January 2004 recommendation by the OECD for OA to publicly-funded research data, and even fell short of it insofar as "wide public access" falls short of open access.  Today's document similarly falls short of earlier EU-wide recommendations, such as the EC-sponsored study in 2006, the December 2006 statement from the Scientific Council of the European Research Council, the January 2007 report from the European Research Advisory Board (EURAB), and the petition signed by more than 26,000 European researchers and research institutions.  The Council should understand that there are already many ongoing experiments, and that competent authorities reviewing them have concluded that it's time for a policy --specifically, an EU-wide OA mandate for publicly-funded research.

Update.  I have more comments on the Council conclusions in a blog post from November 23, 2007.

Update.  Also see Andrea Gawrylewski's story in The Scientist for November 26, 2007. 

Update. Also see the unsigned article in Library Journal Academic Newswire for November 27, 2007.