An effective scientific publishing system for European research

June 16, 2004

Brussels, 15 June 2004

The Commission today launched a study on the economic and technical evolution of the scientific publication markets in Europe, the results of which will be available in 2005.

The objective is to determine the conditions required for optimum operation of the sector and to assess the extent to which the Commission can help to meet those conditions.

The study will deal with the main topics of the current public debate, such as the future of printed scientific reviews, the risks associated with increases in the price of publications in terms of access to information for researchers, open access to research findings for all and the need to reconcile authors’ rights and the economic interests of publishers.

Philippe Busquin, the European commissioner responsible for research has stated that “The way in which the scientific publishing market is organised has implications. Scientific publications not only serve to disseminate research results, they also constitute a tool for evaluating the quality of research teams. Our objective of establishing a genuine European Research Area and our aim to raise the profile of European research mean that we have to examine the scientific publishing system.”

A growing dynamic

The future of scientific publishing has been at the centre of discussions for a number of years, leading to the adoption, in October 2003, of the Berlin Declaration calling for open access to knowledge. The number of scientific periodicals published throughout the world exceeds 20 000. Every year, 1.5 million scientific articles are published worldwide.

Europe is in the lead with 41.3% of all scientific publications, compared with 31.4% for the USA. As regards the number of references, however, Europe lags behind in most disciplines.

Trend in the sector

In the last few years, the scientific publishing sector has undergone fundamental changes as a result of the introduction of new information technologies and the economic evolution of the sector. Today, one in five publications is accessible on line and more than 1 000 titles are listed in the “Directory of Open Access Journals”.

Over the last ten years, however, the average annual increase in the prices of scientific reviews has approached 10%, a figure well in excess of GDP increases and the average inflation rate.

University libraries have therefore seen their purchasing power decline since their budgets cannot keep pace with price increases. There are, moreover, opportunities for archiving and communication via the Internet.

Contributing to the debate

The Commission has therefore decided to launch this study in order to answer the following questions:

  • What are the main changes in Europe?
  • What and who is driving change and why? If there is any resistance to positive change, what/who is blocking it?
  • What are the consequences for users (authors, readers, libraries)?
The study will therefore seek to identify measures at European level which could help to improve conditions governing access to and the exchange, dissemination and archiving of scientific publications while guaranteeing a high level of quality, diversity and protection of authors’ rights.
For more information on the Berlin Declaration and “open access”:


Item source: IP/04/747 Date: 15/06/2004

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