In a bold proposal, the European Union (EU) have agreed to make all of its scientific work available for anybody to use. Under this recently proposed plan, all papers published in the EU that have used public money must be free to access by 2020.
The move was announced at the Competitiveness Council in Brussels late last week by the EU’s science chief Carlos Moedas, after massive lobbying by the Dutch Government, which currently holds the presidency of the Council of the EU.
"We probably don't realize it yet, but what the Dutch presidency has achieved is just unique and huge," Moedas said at a press conference on Friday.
A large crux of the initiative is to make the EU a desirable place for investors and businesses. By relaxing restrictions, they hope to attract foreign start-ups, who bring innovation, jobs, and money to Europe.
But behind the talk of economic growth, there is an exciting and groundbreaking cultural shift for the scientific community and society at large.
While many scientific projects are currently hampered by intellectual property laws, scientific institutions will be encouraged to reuse data from previous research. This will make it far more easy for collaborations between scientists, even if they’re from different countries.
This plan also neatly fits in with wider ideas of “the democratization of knowledge." It offers the opportunity for teachers, doctors, businessmen, and even just simply the interested to stay up to date with the latest scientific insights without costly subscriptions and paywalls to journals or publications.
“Research and innovation provide the solutions to the social and economic challenges of the future,” said Sander Dekker of the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science in a press release. “Open access breaks down the walls surrounding science and makes sure that society benefits as much as possible from all scientific insights. In that way, we maximize the impact of universities and knowledge institutions.”