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Friday, November 13, 2009

Interview on the German OA petition

Richard Poynder, German petition takes Open Access movement by surprise, Open and Shut?, November 13, 2009. An interview with Lars Fischer, author of the OA petition to the German parliament (English translation).

... [Q:] ... [W]hy did you start the petition?

[A:] ... The petition began with something called the Heidelberg Appeal, which was effectively a smear against Open Access. I learned that many scientists were as outraged as I was about the falsehoods in that document.

Because of that I prepared a draft that began a lively discussion in my blog. A few months later, during "Open Access Week" I submitted my text to the Bundestag server, where it was published last Monday. ...

[Q:] How does the petition process work: As I understand it if you get 50,000 signatures by December 22nd it gets debated in the German Parliament? Is that right?

[A:] The goal is to get as many signatures as possible. The Bundestag FAQ says that if 50,000 signatures are reached within three weeks, the petition will be discussed publicly in the Bundestag Petition Committee, in a session where I'm entitled to take part. But even if fewer people sign, every accepted petition will be reviewed by two members of the Committee, so every vote counts.

Actually, other petitions have been accepted with far less than 50,000 votes, notably a dark sky petition this year, which had about 8,000 signatures. As far as I understand it, a hearing in the committee may lead to a legislative initiative, which will then be voted on by the Bundestag. ...

[Q:] What exactly are you proposing?

[A:] My proposal would require publications that came out of taxpayer-funded research to be available to the public. I also propose establishing a central digital repository that is searchable in a number of different ways. ...

[Q:] Would I be right in thinking you are proposing that Germany introduce a scheme similar to the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) mandate (which includes a 12-month embargo on authors making their papers freely available), or something different?

[A:] This is the basic idea. I think it is best to stick to what is known to be working. There may be some differences due to the different structure of research funding. Personally Iím no fan of an embargo, though. ...