Tuesday, July 17, 2012

EU wants open access policy for published research

When scientists discover something important, they usually report their findings in scientific journals. Normally, these are printed and distributed weekly or monthly, but with the rise of the internet, more and more journals move towards the web. While scientific publications were originally meant to educate fellow scientists regarding the latest developments, access to such articles is largely restricted. They are frequently closed for the public and demand outrageous payments for access. One of the most well-known scientific journals is Nature, which charges a stunning 34 dollars to access a single article. Fortunately, new scientific journals have moved towards open-access, meaning everybody can access their publications for free. In an effort to promote such journals, the EU has proposed to make all research that they fund publicly accessible.

Horizon 2020
The EU is funding a lot of scientific research, and is planning to fund a lot more in the future. In fact, Europe will spend around 80 billion euro on research between 2014 and 2020. That amount of money is bound to spur a lot of scientific publications, which will find their way into the many scientific journals around the globe.  Their funding program is called Horizon 2020.

All the research funded by Horizon 2020 should be open to the public, according to a proposal set by the EU. While the European plans are mere proposals, the UK has actually made the decision to make all government-funded research open to the public. By doing that, they have set a proper example in order to make scientific findings accessible to everyone. In terms of ambitions, the EU has made it clear that 60 percent of the Horizon-funded scientific publications should be publicly accessible by 2016.

Even though the EU has merely made proposals, it is likely that these plans will make it into legislation. Consideration for open-access journals has increased in the last couple of years, and because scientific knowledge should be available to everyone, it is likely that journals demanding payment for access need to change their business model in the future. The internet has spurred this development, and has stimulated the rise of various new initiatives, such as ResearchGate. This social network is made for scientists, to share ideas, results and gather knowledge. It is basically the ultimate peer review, as everything is out there in the open. Ultimately, all that is scientific should move in that direction, without paywalls that prevent the public, and sometimes even scientists, from gathering and sharing knowledge. 

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