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Immediate open access ‘should be EU default’, says presidency

Image: European Union

Statement from Swedish presidency of Council of EU follows discussion among research ministers

Research papers should be made freely available immediately under open licences as standard in the EU, the Swedish presidency of the Council of the EU member state governments has said.

“Making scholarly publications rapidly accessible to all contributes to high-quality research,” the Swedish presidency said on 8 February. “Therefore, providing immediate open access to peer-reviewed research publications under open licences should be the default.”

At a meeting on the same day, EU research ministers discussed challenges to meeting this goal.

Sweden’s education minister Mats Persson (pictured) said afterwards: “There are issues [that need] to be dealt with—for example, the high costs of publishing and of reading articles. Another issue is the fact that some journals don’t have good enough processes for securing the quality of the publications.”

National policies urged

Also on the same day, the Swedish presidency published a set of draft Council conclusions on scholarly publishing for EU governments to consider and ultimately adopt, albeit probably in amended form.

This text echoes the presidency statement but goes further in saying that authors should not have to pay fees when publishing their research papers open access.

The draft text “stresses that research results should be as open as possible and as closed as necessary, and that immediate and unrestricted open access should be the default mode in publishing, with no fees for authors”.

It invites EU member states to update national policies “as soon as possible” to bring about this situation.

Several EU governments have already adopted policies that are broadly in line with this stance, with many aligning with the Plan S initiative for bringing about immediate open access to publicly funded research results.

However, for other countries and public funders, adopting such policies would be a dramatic change.

Avoiding inequality

The draft text expresses “concern that the increasing costs for scholarly publishing associated with certain business models may cause inequality in scientific communities and may also become unsustainable for public research funders and institutions”.

In that vein, it “highlights the importance of non-profit, scholarly open-access publishing models that do not charge fees to authors”, adding that various such models exist.

It says it is “essential” to avoid researchers being “limited” in their publication options by an inability to pay fees, and to avoid researchers and the public being unable to read research due to subscription charges.

However, the text says that the current mix of for-profit and not-for-profit scholarly publishing organisations “should be maintained”.

Other priorities

The draft text encourages EU member states to continue to support the development of Open Research Europe, the EU’s open-access publishing platform, which for now remains limited to use by researchers funded by the bloc’s R&I programme.

Open Research Europe should morph to become “a collective, non-profit, large-scale publishing service for the public good”, the text says, in support of previously reported moves to open the platform up for use by other research funders and the researchers they have supported.

It says that much of scholarly publishing is still based on business and operational models from before digitalisation, adding that the “potential for digitalisation has not yet been fully realised”, in particular for datasets and software.

Research representatives from the EU member states are set to meet on 16 February to discuss the text.

In their meeting on 8 February, ministers also discussed research infrastructures and how to open up their data to help tackle societal challenges.