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EU open access push
28.11.07 | Tom Tivnan
The European Union has moved towards recommending wider open access publishing, a move hailed as a "step in the right direction" by open access campaigners but provoking concern among publishers. The Council of the EU released a report last week inviting member states to support various open access options including delayed open access journals and research into how scientific information is accessed. According to EU statistics, member states account for 43% of the world’s scientific research.
David Prosser, director of the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) Europe, said: "The recommendations could have been stronger but this is a good next step. The really important thing is that this is the first time we have seen actual political support in the EU for open access."
The EU is pushing for a "mandated" open access model to ensure that all publicly funded research is freely available. Some learned societies, such as the Wellcome Trust, already fund mandated OA so that journals can be both peer reviewed and freely available. But publishers are concerned the EU is pushing for an unfunded mandate with delayed open access, where access to journals is exclusive through the publishers for a period of time, after which the articles become completely open access.
Stephen Barr, m.d. of Sage Publications, said there has been an "unwillingness" from the EU to consider funded open access. He added: "Publishers generally believe that it [unfunded open access] will cause damage to the existing business model and may over time destroy the economic basis of many journals."
While publishers are wary, some open access campaigners believe the EU's recommendations do not go far enough. Prominent open access campaigner Peter Suber called the report "weak tea". He said: "It takes the problem seriously, as well as the opportunity and the previous studies and recommendations. But it stops far short of the near-consensus recommendation for an open access mandate for publicly-funded research."