Europe Vows to Offer Free Access to Publicly Funded Scientific Papers by 2020

In a decision the European Union’s Commissioner of Research, Science, and Innovation, Carlos Moedas, called “life-changing,” EU member states have agreed to make all publicly funded scientific papers in Europe freely accessible to the public by 2020. This open-access goal is one of a broader set of recommendations in support of open science, which also includes improved storage of and access to research data.

“We probably don’t realize it yet, but what the Dutch presidency has achieved is just unique and huge,” Mr. Moedas said at a press conference. “The commission is totally committed to help move this forward.”

The decision came out of the Competitiveness Council – a group of ministers of science, innovation, trade, and industry – during a two-day meeting in Brussels.

“Europe must be as attractive as possible for researchers and start-ups to locate here and for companies to invest,” said Sander Dekker, the Dutch state secretary for education, culture, and science, in a statement. “That calls for knowledge to be freely shared.”

Currently, non-open-access journals in Europe allow authors to make papers available six or 12 months after publication; the immediate open-access initiative would make these available freely when the paper gets published.

The council provided few details on how countries can make a full transition to open-access in less than four years, prompting some to call the goal unrealistic. While a spokesperson for the Competitiveness Council admitted that it “may not be an easy task,” he stressed that there was a wide agreement about the new open-access goal. “This is not a law, but it’s a political orientation for the 28 governments. The important thing is that there is a consensus.”

Source: Science, May 27, 2016.