EC outlines information-access plans

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The European Commission has revealed how it intends to help increase and improve access to and dissemination of scientific information.

It does not plan to mandate open-access publishing and digital preservation, but will promote best practices and initiate a policy debate on these matters, according to its recent communication on the subject.

The communication highlights the positive impact of the digital revolution on scientific publishing and makes the case that speeding up the accessibility and dissemination of research results would help accelerate innovation and increase Europe's competitive edge. However, it says, recent trends such as open-access publishing have also brought some organisational, legal, technical and financial issues.

In particular, the EC is concerned that a shift to a system where authors, rather than readers, pay could lead to transitional costs and a temporary gap in the accessibility of scientific information. Furthermore, as increasing numbers of repositories include not only peer-reviewed papers but PhD theses and research findings, there are also questions about who will deposit the material and how the quality of the content can be guaranteed. And there are potential financial implications, says the document: only 1% of European research budgets are devoted to dissemination.

In response to these issues, the Commission’s new communication promises measures to promote better access to the publications resulting from research funded under the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) by, for example, including publishing costs within project funding. Guidelines on the publication of articles in open repositories after an embargo period will also be issued for some EC programmes.

The Commission is also making €50 million available over the next two years for work on infrastructures, in particular digital repositories. Around €25 million of this will go to digital preservation and collaborative tools while €10 million will be spent on access to and use of scientific information through the eContentplus programme.