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European Commission May Join Gates Foundation And Wellcome Trust In Becoming An Open Access Publisher

Open access isn’t a new idea — the term was first defined back in 2002, and arguably the first examples go back even further to the founding of in 1991 (pdf). And yet progress towards making all academic knowledge freely available has been frustratingly slow, largely because hugely-profitable publishers have been fighting it every inch of the way. In response to that intransigence, academics have come up with a variety of approaches, including boycotts, mass cancellation of subscriptions, new kinds of overlay journals and simply making everything available with or without permission. Here’s another interesting move to open up publishing, reported by the journal Science:

One of Europe’s biggest science spenders could soon branch out into publishing. The European Commission, which spends more than €10 billion annually on research, may follow two other big league funders, the Wellcome Trust and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and set up a “publishing platform” for the scientists it funds, in an attempt to accelerate the transition to open-access publishing in Europe.

It was quite surprising to see the Wellcome Trust start its own rapid-publishing unit, called Wellcome Open Research, a move that seems to have encouraged the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to follow suit with the similar Gates Open Research platform, due to start publishing later this year. For the EU’s main executive body to do the same is even more extraordinary. It’s true that there has been no official announcement about the European Commission’s publishing move, but the Science article suggests that it is likely:

A commission spokesperson says the two charities [Wellcome and Gates Foundation], which opted for a system in which papers are reviewed after publication, are “models,” but that the commission is only “considering” the idea. But last week in Berlin, at a closed meeting of the Open Science Policy Platform (OSPP), European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation Carlos Moedas suggested a “decision” to create the platform had already been made, says Michael Mabe, CEO of the London-based International Association of Scientific, Technical, and Medical Publishers (STM). OSPP member Sabina Leonelli of the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, who tweeted from the meeting, confirms Mabe’s assessment.

For three giant funding organizations — the Wellcome Trust, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the European Commission — to be driven to take this step shows just how frustrated they all are with the academic publishing world’s unhelpful response to two decades of calls for open access. It also underlines that they now seem determined to open up the research they fund by bypassing completely the traditional publishers who are proving so obstructive.

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Author: Glyn Moody

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