Brussels, 03 Apr 2006
The European Commission has published a study on Europe's scientific publication system, which recommends, among other actions, ensuring published articles arising from EU-funded research are made available in open access archives after a given time period.
The study looked at the economic and technical evolution of scientific publication markets in Europe, and is intended to kick-start a consultation process on scientific publishing.
Scientific publication ensures that research results are disseminated, which is a precondition for further research, and for transferring these results into marketable products and services. Publication also contributes to the certification of the quality of research work.
'Given the scarcity of public money to provide access to scientific publications, there is a strong interest in seeing that Europe has an effective and functioning system for scientific publication that speedily delivers results to a wide audience,' says the European Commission. 'We are ready to work with readers, authors, publishers and funding bodies to develop such a model,' says EU Science and Research Commissioner, Janez Potocnik.
New EU policy on publishing articles resulting from EU-funded research should be introduced following discussions with the EU Member States as well as research and academic associations on the best way for its implementation, say the report's authors.
The report also recommends a level playing field in terms of business models in publishing. This refers to who pays for what. 'At this point, it seems desirable to allow for experimentation and competition between various possible business models, which means allocating money to libraries to subscribe to reader or library-pay journals, but also to authors to pay for publication costs in author-pay journals, and to researchers in the reader-pay model.'
The authors also make recommendations on extending quality rankings for scientific journals, guaranteeing constant access to the digital archives of scholarly journals and fostering interoperable tools to improve knowledge visibility, accessibility and dissemination. The tools could be developed by funding research into interoperability issues, notably on metadata to improve search and retrieval efficiency for scientific information, and by promoting the implementation of linking technologies. 'Both developments could be taken into account by the European Commission in its e-infrastructure building strategy for the European Research Area,' states the report.
The study generated recommendations aimed at preventing strategic barriers to entry and to experimentation, and excessive concentration. They relate to pro-competitive pricing strategies, mergers, and the development of electronic publications.
The publishing market for science, technology and medical journals is estimated to be worth between USD 7 and 11 billion (six to nine billion euro). The prices of scientific journals have risen steadily, increasing between 200 and 300 per cent above inflation between 1975 and 1995. The price increase was accompanied by a fall in subscriptions, both by individual researchers and by libraries whose budgets were cut or frozen.
The situation changed in 1995, when publishers started to use digital delivery, and provide online access to their journals. But, access still relied upon libraries' ability to pay subscriptions.
Libraries' ongoing budgetary difficulties and fears about a reduction in access have led to the foundation of a movement in favour of open access to scientific information. Declarations in favour of open access have been signed by thousands of individuals and by major research institutions and funding bodies around the world.
The Commission is inviting the research community to respond to the new study. Interested parties are invited to send contributions by e-mail to the address below by 1 June 2006. The study and feedback will be the focus of a conference on scientific publication to be held in the autumn of 2006.
Commission study addresses Europe's scientific publication system
Brussels, 31 March 2006