Free Access to Knowledge by 2020?



With the rapid advancement of science and technology, be it in terms of orbiting Mars, or finding a cure to innumerable diseases, access to research content has taken a backseat. This is due to the paid subscription policy used by many scientific journals.

Open access refers to the idea of technical and scientific journals, as well as publications on the results of research and analysis supported and owned by public and public-private funds, to be easily and freely available and accessible to everyone. Albeit the outcomes of these publicly funded research are currently used by the host entities who publish and document them, people outside universities, educators, doctors, entrepreneurs, ventures do not have free and unrestrained admittance to the latest scientific visions and perceptions that are pertinent to their work. This, in-turn leads to the process where the universities have to take expensive subscriptions and memberships with the owners and publishers of the publications.

In order to revolutionize this concept of sharing and reusing data, many enterprises are inculcating the cumbersome method of monetizing all results and analyses. To achieve that, the information must be made freely accessible, unless there are justifiable reasons for not doing so, as in the case of intellectual property rights, security or confidentiality issues.

On 27 May 2016, the European Commission (EC) announced the representatives of the Open Science Policy Platform (OSPP), and a gathering of ministers of science, innovation, trade, and commerce to form the EU Competitiveness (COMPET) Council, which embraced conclusions on Open Science, as well as on upcoming R&I programmes. European Science Chief, Carlos Moedas termed this as a transformative move, and the E.U. member states approved on an elaborate new open-access (OA) target by 2020, which was concluded subsequently after a 2-day meeting in Brussels.

Even though some observers are speculating that the target will be hard to achieve, the OA goal is a part of a comprehensive set of proposals in support of open science, a notion that also includes enhanced storage of and access to research data. Earlier, the Dutch government held the presidency for the rotating E.U. The conclusion was also openly welcomed by the League of European Research Universities (LERU). The council delivers details on how countries can formulate a full shift to OA within the next 4 years. Considering OA’s gradual progression over the past 15 years, some predict the accomplishment as exceedingly optimistic. By doing this, the EU is trying to set a benchmark, surpassing the Netherlands, which is regarded as an OA prime candidate with its official deadline to reach full OA by 2024. Senior analysts have projected that the European Union needs to acquire its scientific output and aggregate it in institutional repositories. This form of collection is termed as Green OA. On the other hand, the Dutch government follows the Gold OA, where the author issues/publishes in an OA journal.

In conclusion, unlike many non-OA journals, which take 6-12 months (post-publication) to be made available to people, this scheme aims at generously endowing scientific research papers as soon as they are published.

-Navya Suresh

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