It has long been a scandal that publicly funded scientific research is often only available via high cost scientific magazine subscriptions that make a small number of global publishing companies rich to the tune of $8billion a year. This is utterly indefensible now internet publishing has virtually zero cost and the research results are already digitized. I am therefore very pleased by the latest European Union move to make publicly funded scientific research freely available on the net. I hope the US will follow suit.
The European Union, which controls one of the world’s largest science budgets, said on Tuesday it would give free access to all research funded by European taxpayers, in a move that could hit the profits of scientific publishers such as Reed Elsevier, Wiley and Springer.
Plans by the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, to release for free and to a wider audience articles usually held by expensive academic journals would benefit innovation, but would force publishers, which currently generate about $8bn in revenues, to revolutionise their business models, analysts said.
“We are opening up access to scientific publications and the underlying data,” said Neelie Kroes, EU commissioner for the digital agenda. “In future you won’t have to pay expensive subscriptions to access information generated with your taxes.”
University libraries around the world are currently forced to pay millions of dollars annually to access research that has often been funded by public grants and developed by their own researchers.
“This package is also a major part of the wider movement to open up what is produced with public money – whether by a government or the organisations they fund,” said Ms Kroes.
From 2014, the commission plans to award grants worth €80bn through its Horizon 2020 programme for research and innovation, making it one of the world’s most influential financiers for academic research.
EU officials added that starting from 2014 all scientific papers that have benefited from the Horizon 2020 programme will have to be freely accessible through “open access” online databases.