Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Friday, November 23, 2007

More on the EU Council recommendation

Huw Jones, EU ministers agree plan to widen access to research, Reuters, November 23, 2007.  Excerpt:

European Union ministers adopted a plan on Friday to make it easier for people to access scientific research and to help spread innovation more quickly across the 27-nation bloc....

The plan is expected to raise concern among publishers of scientific journals, who fear losing revenue if research is made available free on the Internet -- but to be widely welcomed by librarians, researchers and funding bodies. EU Research Commissioner Janez Potocnik said publishers should not be concerned, but the benefits of digital technology should be used to the full.

"It's nobody's idea to destroy the publishing industry," Potocnik told a news conference.

European researchers publish 43 percent of the world's research and scientific publishing houses in the EU employ 36,000 full-time staff and 10,000 freelancers.

Mariano Gago, science and technology minister for EU president Portugal, said many of the scientific journals were owned by not-for-profit scientific societies and federations.

"The question of open access is to be dealt with in parallel with the viability of scientific publishers," Gago said.

States will look at the way researchers exercise their copyright on scientific articles and how much it costs to disseminate research.

They will also examine tools such as refunding value added tax to libraries which take out digital journal subscriptions, and how to link national repositories of science data....

Comment.  I blogged the EU ministers' recommendation earlier today, and as I read it, it's weak tea.  The most that can be said for it is that it's a recommendation by the government, not just a recommendation to the government.  It takes the problem seriously, as well as the opportunity and the previous studies and recommendations.  But it stops far short of the near-consensus recommendation for an OA mandate for publicly-funded research.  The explanation lies in Mariano Gago's remark, "The question of open access is to be dealt with in parallel with the viability of scientific publishers."  It doesn't matter that the organizations speaking on behalf of research want an OA mandate (esp. the European Research Council, the European Research Advisory Board, and over 1,300 European research institutions).  It doesn't matter that the mission of public funding agencies is to advance research and the public interest, not the private interests of publishers.  Nor does it matter that publisher lobbyists typically exaggerate the threats to their viability (see esp. Sections 5-9).  Nor does it matter that there are compromises (such as embargoes and the dual deposit/release strategy) to support the publishing industry without retreating from an OA mandate for publicly-funded research.  It's as if publishers have been given a veto.  As I once argued about the EC, the Council "seems to see its role as mediating a controversy rather than deciding it."