Wednesday, June 1, 2016 News

EU’s Bold Open Science Recommendations Strike a Nerve

Open Access   ·   Open Data

Last week, the Council of the European Union announced a bold new set of goals designed to move  Europe squarely to the forefront of the Open Science movement – including setting an ambitious target proposing that all European scientific research articles be made freely available via Open Access by the year 2020.

In a statement released by the Competitiveness Council, a high-level body comprised of the Ministers of the 28 member states of the EU responsible for trade, innovation science and industry, the members agreed to

“support a transition to immediate open access as the default by 2020, using the various models possible and in a cost-effective way, without embargoes or with as short as possible embargoes, and without financial and legal barriers, taking into account the diversity in research systems and disciplines…”

Implementation details remain to be addressed, but the statement makes it clear that each country is free to adopt implementation strategies that best suit their local needs, and does not express a specific preference for use of either journals or repositories as a compliance mechanism.

Additionally, the Council set out goals promoting a move towards making “open” the default for research data sharing, and outlined the need to realign incentives/rewards for the sharing of research outputs that support the public’s interest – rather than basing assessment solely on quantity of publications produced or the Impact Factor of those publications.

Any way you slice it, this represents a huge step forward for the global open access movement. The statement released today by the Publishers Association underlines just how significant an advance the EU’s new position is.

In their response to the EU’s Competitiveness Council’s Conclusions of May 27, 2016, the publishers expressed numerous deep concerns. In particular, I would note they express:

1. A concern over lack of deference to the “gold” journal publishing route. Their comments clearly highlight a real nervousness about the potential for institutional repositories to disrupt their exclusive control of article distribution channels;

2. A deep concern over lack of specific allowable embargo periods. They do not like the “as short as possible” language, and that is no surprise given their recent pushes to define 24-48 months as acceptable embargoes.

3. Additional concern that a sprint to *required immediate* open access will lead researchers to chose less-expensive options for publication. This is really interesting; the publishers seem very concerned that forcing a *quick* move to immediate OA will give authors the incentive to bypass the high impact – and high-priced – journals in favor of publication in more affordable venues.

4. An explicit plea that Text and Data Mining (TDM) be kept as the exclusive purview of the commercial publishing market rather than enabled to serve the public good. They specifically note that “the suggestion to include “public interest research organisations” is extremely vague and the suggestion to include “businesses and SMEs” within scope threatens to undermine an existing, well-functioning market for commercial TDM.”

5. An opposition to any employer retention of copyright. Rather than expressing support for the extending accessibility to and increased utility of articles that this promotes, the STM statement simply laments that this move would “conflict with the rights publishers need in order to operate a subscription business model, and to act on behalf of the author to protect and defend their work and their reputation….”

The full text of the STM statement is worth a read, and can be found here ( released today by the STM International). It will be very interesting to see if U.S. policy makers respond in kind to the bold action action taken by the EU. A reaction this strong from the publishing lobby indicates that the EU has really hit the mark.

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