If science is meant for public benefit, then it stands to reason that it should exist in the public domain. That appears to be the line of logic behind the European Union’s new law, which mandates that beginning in 2020, any publicly funded research must be freely accessible and reusable. The move comes as a huge win for Open Access proponents, as it means that all research that was made possible even in part by people like you and me will be made widely available.
In a statement surrounding the decision, Sander Dekker, State Secretary for Education, Culture, and Science in the Netherlands, noted that open access is crucial when it comes to progress. “Research and innovation generate economic growth and more jobs and provide solutions to societal challenges, and that means a stronger Europe,” Dekker said. “To achieve that, Europe must be as attractive as possible for researchers and start-ups to locate here and for companies to invest. That calls for knowledge to be freely shared.”
There are still a few kinks that the EU has yet to iron out, namely how to determine which papers are truly “the results of publicly funded research,” and how it will enforce this open access standard. Moreover, with growing concerns over intellectual property rights and privacy in the 21st century, the EU must tread carefully and establish which loopholes it will allow.
Moreover, the 2020 timeframe may be a bit ambitious, and a spokesperson for the Council of the EU admitted to Science magazine that the task at hand “may not be…easy.” But all the same, the spokesperson said, “This is now a law, but it’s a political orientation for the 28 governments. The important thing is that there is a consensus.”
And as for many research institutions, like universities and hospitals, they’re thrilled by the implications of the new process. The League of European Research Universities is calling the decision “a major boost for the transition towards and Open Science system.”
So if your idea of some nice, light reading consists of research papers, you may want to consider moving to Europe in the coming years. A treasure trove will soon be available.