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EU broadens access to publicly funded scientific research

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scientist microsope (shutterstock)
scientist microsope (shutterstock)

Critics of gated academic and research communities have long sought for more open-access to taxpayer-funded information, and thanks to a move by the European Commission, some of the barriers to open access have crumbled. Today, EU digital chief Neelie Kroes announced that the union will "require open access to all publications stemming from EU-funded research." Kroes said that "taxpayers who are paying for that research will want to see something back," and that "all in all, we are putting openness at the heart of EU research and innovation funding."

The move follows efforts in the US and Australia to open up access to scientific funding, though critics say the US has not gone far enough. In February, the White House issued an order requiring federal agencies that give $100 million or more a year in research funding to make the scientific papers they fund "freely available to the public within one year of publication." Right now, many federally funded research papers are only available through costly subscription journals and websites like JSTOR and Lexis Nexis.

"We are propelled by the same, inevitable currents of change."

The issue of open access to academic journals and research was thrust into the public spotlight recently following the death of Aaron Swartz in January, who faced aggressive prosecution for charges of stealing 4.8 million documents from JSTOR. Swartz has since been vindicated by public support for his actions, including proposed legislative revisions to anti-hacking laws, as well as posthumous recognition with the James Madison Freedom of Information Award for his efforts promoting free access to publicly funded research. Just a few days before his death, JSTOR announced that it would begin offering free access to its catalog of journals, papers, and books.

With today's announcement, Commissioner Kroes also launched the Research Data Alliance: a cooperative model intended to help gather and share scientific data around the world. "Our society and our future are best served through science that is faster, better, and more open," Kroes said. "We are propelled by the same, inevitable currents of change. And I look forward to continuing to work on this with the US, Australia, and others."