The Open Access button

Open access refers to the practice of granting free Internet access to research articles. As all research and innovation builds on earlier achievements, an efficient system for broad dissemination of and access to research data and publications can accelerate scientific progress.
The Commission objective is to optimise the impact of publicly-funded scientific research, both at European level (FP7, Horizon 2020) and at Member State level. This is essential for Europe’s ability to enhance its economic performance and improve the capacity to compete through knowledge. One way to get there is open access. Results of publicly-funded research can therefore be disseminated more broadly and faster, to the benefit of researchers, innovative industry and citizens. Open access can also boost the visibility of European research, and in particular offer small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) access to the latest research for utilisation.
The Commission strategy is to develop and implement open access to research results from projects funded by the EU Research Framework Programmes, namely FP7 and Horizon 2020. Open access requirements are based on a balanced support to both ‘Green open access’ (immediate or delayed open access that is provided through self-archiving) and ‘Gold open access’ (immediate open access that is provided by a publisher).

 A very simple principle informs the recent approach of the European Commission concerning EU funded research outputs: if it’s funded with public money, its outputs shall be open to everybody. Simple, desirable: obvious.

Yet, it’s a bit trickier than that.

For instance, the same researchers are at the same time asked to disseminate their work in open access and to publish in “top” journals, which are often owned by private publishers and are not in open access, unless the researcher (or his/her institution) pays for it: put it in other words, an open access policy that does not consider the current trends in publication and assessment may result in further costs for universities.

Indeed, the transition towards a full open access system for public funded research is more than desirable, but it will take some time and a lot of efforts. A full open access system would ensure that all researchers would have equal access to the literature they need: this is not the case, nowadays, and enormous divides exist between researchers from different universities (not to say about different countries).

In the meanwhile, there’s something that any researcher or student can do for supporting the transition towards full open access systems. The Open Access button, supported by Medsin-UK and the Right to Research Coalition, allows to share our frustration when hitting a paywall for the resources we need for our work. The result is a worldwide map of the impact of paywalls on the researchers’ work. To date, more than 6 thousands paywalls have been registered.

Next time you hit a paywall, don’t forget mapping it with the Open Access button!

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