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Eastern funders lack policies needed to enforce open access, says Commission

Eastern European governments still have fewer policies in place to promote open access than those in the rest of the continent, a report published by the European Commission has found.

The report says that funders in Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Finland, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia do not have any power to enforce the free access to results of research they have funded. Requiring researchers to publish in open-access journals, the report’s authors point out, would enhance the visibility of work funded by eastern European countries.

The study looked at the measures used by national governments to increase open-access publishing in the European Research Area, Brazil, Canada, Japan and the United States between 1996 and 2013. It found that national legislation remained underused in eastern Europe as a tool to enforce open-access publishing.

However, Iryna Kuchma, a programme manager at Eifl, a not-for-profit group that works with libraries to promote access to knowledge, says that most funders in eastern Europe have not yet decided whether they want regulation to enforce open access among their researchers. “Funders are still following developments in the rest of Europe and considering a number of options,” she says.

Despite a lack of official policies, funding bodies in the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia are the most active in pushing open-access publishing in the region, Kuchma says. In these countries, funders and governments are working together to develop open-access policies, she says, adding that she expects many of these policies to be finalised next year. Hungary has already become the first country in the region to require all research financed by its public research fund to be made available for free.

Romania and Bulgaria are at the bottom end of eastern Europe’s open-access publishing scene. But Peter Stanchev, a campaigner at the OpenAIRE project, says scientists in Bulgaria are trying to change that. They have developed a roadmap for open-access publishing in collaboration with the science ministry, he says.

However, a new government was established in October and it remains to be seen whether the incoming science minister will take up the proposal, Stanchev adds.

In September 2015, Bulgaria will host a Unesco meeting to discuss open-access initiatives in eastern Europe and the Balkans.

This article also appeared in Research Europe