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Brussels, 15 February 2007

Scientific information in the digital age: Ensuring current and future access for research and innovation

Access to research results has a significant role to play in driving innovation and maintaining the quality of research. Developments in digital technology challenge existing business models and practices for making research results available, and with open access research funding bodies are taking different approaches. The Commission has therefore today launched a policy document to examine how new digital technologies can be better used to increase access to research publications and data as an important driver for innovation in our increasingly knowledge-based economy. With this new approach, the Commission launches an EU-level framework to support new ways of promoting better access to scientific information online and to preserve research results digitally for future generations. The Commission's ideas will be discussed at a major conference in Brussels on 15 and 16 February. This conference follows on from an expert study commissioned in 2006.

"The digital revolution has dramatically improved the way in which scientific information is spread," said Viviane Reding, Commissioner for Information Society and Media. "But it also raises new questions about how to preserve scientific information for the future. Today's strategy outlines how Europe can best capitalise on the excellent work of its researchers."

"New ideas are usually built on the results of previous research," added Janez Potočnik, Commissioner for Science and Research. "We must make sure that the flow of scientific information contributes to innovation and research excellence in the European Research Area".

This Communication provides an objective overview of the current state of play in Europe regarding scientific publishing and the preservation of research results, examining organisation, legal, technical and financial issues.

Digital technologies are reshaping how research information is viewed, analysed and eventually published. For example, about 90% of all science journals are now available online, often by subscription. But digital technologies are also leading to more 'open access' publishing. This provides free and wide access to publications online. Better access to research data also opens the way to new types of uses and services, often through re-using of past results as the raw material for new experimentation.

Online access to current scientific information does not guarantee its future availability. Digital information has a limited lifetime and needs to be maintained over time. Better tools and organisational steps are necessary to ensure digital preservation and thus prevent the loss of importance scientific information.

In terms of concrete measures, the Commission has already identified the following:

  • To improve current and future access to scientific information, the EU will support experiments with open access in its recently-launched research programme (by, for example, refunding the project costs of open access publishing).
  • During 2007-2008 the Commission has also set aside some €50 million to support and help coordinate infrastructures for storing scientific data across Europe and €25 million for research on digital preservation, supporting in particular centres of competence in digital preservation. The eContentplus programme will devote €10 million to improving interoperability of and multilingual access to collections of scientific material (see IP/05/98).
  • A major European conference on Scientific Publishing in the European Research Area, organised by the Commission will be held in Brussels on 15-16 February with the participation of the Commissioner for science and research Janez Potočnik and the Commissioner for Information Society and Media Viviane Reding.

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