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Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda
Opening EU-funded research to all, 24/7
Statement at Press Conference on Open Access to Scientific Information
Brussels, 17 July 2012
I have a special interest in the package Máire and I present today.
We are leading by example and making EU-funded research open to all.
And we are urging member states to do likewise, so that sooner, rather than later, all nationally funded research will follow.
In simple terms that means we are opening up access to scientific publications and the underlying data. In future you won’t have to pay expensive subscriptions to access information generated with your taxes.
I put a premium on such open systems because they deliver more for their users and for the wider economy.
For example when the Human Genome Project results were made accessible, it leveraged a €3 billion research investment into around €500 billion in economic activity.
I want more of those benefits to land in Europe.There is a direct connection between this package and our economic future.
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.
Doing this is a matter of principle. You paid for this research – you should have access to the results.
But more than that, open access to scientific information will lead to better and faster research results.
Innovation is an over-used word. We talk a lot about it, but don’t do enough of it. One reason for that is that we put obstacles in the way of innovation - like locking up information that is critical for innovators, for entrepreneurs.
Open access policies get rid of those obstacles. They make it easier for great thinkers, for great business people, to do what they do best.
So this package is big news for any start-up or small company that can’t afford scientific journals.
This could help those businesses get their ideas to market 2 years earlier.
For publications our proposal means that researchers can choose to provide open access in two ways:
First, by paying publication costs upfront to the publisher and making the articles immediately accessible – known as 'Gold' Open Access.
Or, second, by putting their articles into open access repositories online. Publishers sometime impose "embargo periods", that is: delays before such self-deposited articles can become openly accessible. Our policy means that delays of up to 6 months are acceptable for all subjects, with an except for social sciences and humanities who may delay by 12 months. This is known as “green open access”.
And let's look at scientific data too. We can do a great deal by utilising raw research data in new ways. For example, Alzheimers’ researchers recently pooled genetic data and discovered five new genes and important evidence about the disease. That is what happens when researchers from different research fields and regions can cross-check and combine data sets.
Therefore we will start implementing a strong open access policy for data as well, excluding, however, projects for which this would raise legitimate privacy or commercial concerns.
Our strong political message today is that researchers deserve support to make their results available to all, for the benefit of all.
And of course that support doesn't stop with project grants. As Máire has explained, we have already made major progress in building the European Research Area. One crown jewel is what we call the Digital ERA. And the basis of the Digital ERA are the very high-speed network connections – up into the Gigabit per second rage - between all universities and research institutes: our GÉANT network build over the last two decades.
Open access to data needs infrastructures to host and serve the data – and it needs infrastructures to connect to and transport the data. We already are busy building and extending both.
In conclusion: we spend hundreds of billions of euros on research in Europe and we need to make sure the results can have the largest possible impact. As in so many other fields, the internet is once again the key to this progress.
As one of the biggest players in this field, the EU is placing European science as a global leader: and giving taxpayers the “value for money” they deserve.