All the scientific results of research funded by Horizon 2020, the EU’s new €80 billion research strategy must available free, announced Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes, unveiling a new open access strategy on Tuesday (17 July). In what she said is “big news” for any start-up or small company that can’t afford scientific journals,” Kroes claimed, “This could help those businesses get their ideas to market two years earlier.”
Both Kroes and EU Research Commissioner Maire Geoghegan-Quinn stressed that in addition to the benefits for science and business, open access to publicly-funded research is also a matter of principle. Kroes said, “You paid for this research – you should have access to the results.”
To protect the scientific publishing industry, the Commission will allow a time lag between first publication in a journal and making information free. “Our policy means that delays of up to six months are acceptable for all subjects, with an exception for social sciences and humanities, which may delay by 12 months,” Kroes stated.
Kroes also wants to encourage open access to raw research data, pointing out that researchers in Alzheimer’s recently discovered five new genes and important evidence about the cause of the disease, after pooling raw genetic data. “That is what happens when researchers from different research fields and regions can cross-check and combine data sets,” she said.
But the Commission will not force researchers to publish their raw data, said Kroes, saying she would exclude, “projects for which this would raise legitimate privacy or commercial concerns.”
Open access with a time delay, as proposed by the Commission, is referred as the ‘green’ option. Kroes said she would also encourage the so-called ‘gold’ open access option, meaning that researchers pay publishers a fee to edit and peer review articles, making them available to the public at no cost, immediately.
Whatever the model, this is a severe threat to scientific publishers, ranging from heavyweights like Elsevier, one of the world’s largest research publishers, to learned societies publishing a single journal. However, Kroes said they have enough time to develop new business models. “Times have changed, and they should also take into account that it is not like the 17th or 18th century anymore.”
Kroes urged the EU Member States to follow the Commission’s example, “so that sooner, rather than later, all nationally-funded research will follow,” she said. On Monday, the UK government announced it would oblige its researchers to provide gold open access. The Danish government has also announced detailed open access plans.
Under Framework Programme 7 (FP7) – the EU’s current research funding scheme – the amount of research published publicly only represents 20 per cent of the FP7 budget, Commission officials estimate.