The Commission of the EC on regulation and self-regulation pro OA

From: Armbruster, Chris <>
Date: Thu, 15 Feb 2007 22:09:36 EST

Commission of the European Communities (CEC) Conference
"Scientific Publishing in the European Research Area -- Access,
Dissemination and Preservation in the Digital Age", Brussels,
15-16 February 2007

Communication from the CEC "On Scientific Information in the
Digital Age: Access, Dissemination and Preservation" COM (2007)
56 (provisional)

The CEC expresses in the provisional Communication its intention
to support access to community funded research results by
-- Defining as eligible costs for open access publishing in
community research programmes;
-- Allowing mandatory deposit policies with a post-publication
embargo period to be implemented as advised by EURAB for FP7 and
intended by the ERC for future grants (announced in December
-- Co-funding research infrastructure development (E50m for
digital repositories, E25m for digital preservation and
collaborative tools, E10m for access and use of scientific
-- Funding a study on the economic aspects of digital
-- Funding research on publication business models and on the
scientific publication system.

>From the Opening Speech of the Commissioner Janez Potocnik and
the Communication it emerges that the CEC embraces change and
wishes to enhance access to knowledge, but is equally concerned
about economic competitiveness and innovation as well as digital
preservation. Concerns may be discerned with regard to the road
ahead, and these centre on how to ensure that a "critical mass"
of high quality scientific information becomes available without
undue disruption of the system due to exorbitant transitional
costs or a gap in accessibility.

What this means is that while the CEC broadly embraces the move
towards open access to scientific knowledge, it is cognisant of
the fact that in the EU 780 scientific publishers employ 36,000
persons and produce 49% of world output (from the Communication).
Consequently, it is unlikely that there will be outright support
for a Europea policy mandating published articles arising from
EC-funded research to be available after a given time period in
open access archives.

The significance of this is that the CEC is not (at present)
willing to intercede pro OA with overt political regulation. That
leaves the field open to self-regulation, which means that
research funders, research organisations, universities and
libraries must and will -- with each other - negotiate the way
forward. The significance of the EURAB recommendation and ERC
intentions then is that they support a broader European move
towards OA -- by publishing and by deposition.

The publishers may, presently, be relieved that there will be no
overt political regulation. But their "Brussels Declaration on
STM Publishing" is only remarkable for confirming how
out-of-touch toll-access publishers have become -- not only
out-of-touch with the potential of digital technology and the
wider opportunities of the knowledge-based economy, but also --
and even worse -- with the workflow and needs of scientists. It
is not OA archiving mandates that threaten publishers, but their
widespread unwillingness to embrace change and co-operate (not
true, of course, for OA publishers). Indeed, it might well be
that non-reforming publishers will be running for political cover
very soon by demanding subsidies to preserve their outdated
business models and technology.

This is why and how a case for wider political regulation could
still be built: Studies are appearing that estimate a highly
positive impact for OA on innovation and economic growth. Models
and data that confirm this could persuade the CEC to help
organise a transition to OA. There is an analogous precedent:
Directive 2003/98/EC on the re-use of public sector information
(17 November 2003). It was based on high expectations about the
economic value of the PSI re-use market that would emerge.
Essentially, the directive regulates OA to PSI.

The economic value of OA to scientific knowledge would seem to be
of even higher value - compared to PSI -- and thus a real boost
to the European knowledge economy. This would justify the
instigation of an orderly transition to OA. Moreover, a directive
on OA to scientific information might be the last chance for
change-resistant publishers to save themselves. If the management
of toll-access publishers is incapable, then we must do our best
to create new publishing companies in Europe to salvage 36,000
jobs and create new ones.

Chris Armbruster

"Academic Publishing in Europe: Innovation & Publishing " - under
the Patronage of Dr. Annette Schavan, Federal Minister of
Education and Research in Germany and under the Auspices of the
EU Research Directorate-General

Open access in social and cultural science: Innovative moves to
enhance access, inclusion and impact in scholarly communication

Cyberscience and the knowledge-based economy, open access and
trade publishing: from contradiction to compatibility with
nonexclusive copyright licensing
Received on Sat Feb 17 2007 - 06:24:27 GMT

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