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Monday, February 25, 2008

Free movement of knowledge, but without OA

Today the Council of the European Union agreed that the EU "needs to create a "fifth freedom" - the free movement of knowledge."  (Thanks to Napoleon Miradon.)  From the Council report:

...In order to succeed in the transition to a highly competitive knowledge economy, the European Union needs to create a "fifth freedom" - the free movement of knowledge. Member States and the Commission are invited to deepen their dialogue and expand their cooperation in order to further identify and remove obstacles to the cross-border mobility of knowledge....

In elaborating what this means, the ministers mention the mobility of researchers, family-friendly scientific careers, education reforms, broadband penetration, and a new voluntary charter to manage the intellectual property of public research organizations.  They do not mention open access.

Comment.  Nearly a year ago, EU Research Commissioner, Janez Potocnik, proposed making the "movement of knowledge" a fifth freedom guaranteed by the EU Treaty alongside the movement of goods, services, capital, and labor.  He spelled out the idea in his green paper of April 4, 2007, The European Research Area: New Perspectives.  This was the paper that asked ingenuously whether the EU needed an OA policy, after the February 2007 meeting in Brussels in which Potocnik had already solicited and received abundant evidence that the answer was yes.  See my blog comment on the green paper at the time it was released and my later comment when the public comments on the green paper (overwhelmingly supporting an OA mandate) were released in October 2007.  It's hard to avoid seeing a pattern here:  first, the Research Commissioner disregards the arguments for an EU-wide OA policy, and then the EU Ministers disregard the OA connection when acknowledging the need for the fifth freedom.

Update (2/27/08).  Also see Napoleon Miradon's follow-up:

"Why now; why are the Research Ministers issuing press releases now?" Ans: Because the Research Ministers were finalising their wish-list for the EU summit meeting next month.

The summit meeting, of heads of government and state, will be chaired by Dr Danilo Türk, President of the Republic of Slovenia, and former Professor of International Law at the University of Ljubljana.

Dr Türk has a long and distinguished list of publications, and the Faculty of Computer and Information Science at his University has a nice little EPrints archive.

So has anyone briefed Dr Türk's colleagues on OA matters in Europe? Or is this another opportunity missed for OA in the EU?

PS:  I can add that the Slovenian Minister for Growth, ?iga Turk (no relation?), is an informed defender of OA.