Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Publishing FUD from the European Parliament

Today the European Parliament adopted a report on the European Research Area which includes some ruminations on OA policy.  Unfortunately the report itself isn't yet online, but here's the EP summary of the OA portion:

The House supports the Commission's approach of "open innovation" for sharing knowledge between public and private sectors. However, MEPs call for "a balanced and fair system" between open access to scientific results and use of such results by the private sector. They stress that the industry should officially recognise the rule of "a fair and equitable financial reward" for the use of public knowledge.

The Internet opens up "opportunities for experimentation with new models" (such as Open Access), says the report. Yet, MEPs stress that authors' freedom of choice and intellectual property rights need to be respected and quality peer review must be ensured. Through pilot projects impact and viability of alternative models such as Open Access should be evaluated....


  • It looks like the publishing lobby has persuaded Parliament that a strong OA policy would rob them of revenue, violate copyright, undermine peer review, and limit author freedom to publish in the journals of their choice --all arguments made and answered many times before. 
  • If the "fair and equitable financial reward" means that publishers should have a chance to generate revenue to cover their costs in facilitating peer review, I agree.  But in every funder mandate to date, that chance is assured by (1) allowing an embargo period on the OA edition, and (2) providing OA only to the author's peer-reviewed manuscript, not to the published edition.  But if it means more than this, for example, if it is code for a revenue guarantee, then it turns the fairness argument upside down.  Fairness requires public access to publicly-funded research.  While an embargo would compromise that interest, a revenue guarantee would put a private interest positively ahead of the public interest, and make access depend on the fortunes of private-sector companies that did not conduct the research, write it up, or fund it.

Update.  The report text is now online.  Scroll to p. 42 for the start of the report, and to p. 47 for the start of the part on Sharing Knowledge (points 36-41).  The full text doesn't add much to the summary, but here are the relevant passages.  Parliament...

36. Believes that investments in infrastructure, functionality and electronic cross-reference initiatives have enabled major improvements in the dissemination and use of scientific information and that the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities is an example of how opportunities for experimentation with new models have been opened up by the internet; underlines the importance of respecting authors' freedom of choice and intellectual property rights (IPR), ensuring the continuation of quality peer reviews and the trusted secure preservation of refereed work, and encourages stakeholders to work together through pilot projects to evaluate the impact and viability of alternative models, such as the development of Open Access;

37. Agrees with the ‘open innovation’ concept promoted by the Commission according to which the public and private sectors become full partners and share knowledge, provided that a balanced and fair system is developed between open access to scientific results and a use of such results by the private sector (fair sharing of knowledge); believes that the rule of a fair and equitable financial reward for use of public knowledge by industry should be officially recognised;

38. Firmly believes that the legal uncertainty and high costs currently prevailing in the field of IPR contribute to the fragmentation of research efforts in Europe....

Update. For some background on this language, see my later post (March 14, 2008) on the stronger, original language.