Open access: an open challenge


Last January, the scientific journal Nature published a news about scientists who do research funded by the Gates Foundation, who are not allowed to publish their work in those journals that do not comply with the Foundation’s open-access policy. This is the case of important publications such as NatureScience and the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).

In 2015, the Gates Foundation, one of the world’s most influential global health charities, announced his open access policy. It provides that all publications and their underlying data sets must be immediately accessible and open upon their publication and that they must be published under license that allows unrestricted reuse (including for commercial purposes) and permitting to publishers to apply up to a 12 month embargo period.

After January 1 2017, this embargo period will no longer be allowed.

If, on the one hand, the Gates-funded researchers seem highly supportive of this policy, on the other, some top journals, which do not comply to the Gates Foundation’s requirements, are currently off limits to these scientists.

Actually, there is an ongoing discussion between the foundation and these publishers. According to Peter Suber, director of the Harvard Open Access Project in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the journals like Science and Nature ought to accommodate the Gates policy, as it happened in 2008, when US National Institutes of Health (NIH) policy mandated that papers have to be freely available no later than 12 months after publication.

The Gates Foundation’s policy has focused attention again on open access to scientific information and research results not only in United States but also in Europe.

In 2012, the European Commission published a Communication towards better access to scientific information and a Recommendation on access to and preservation of scientific information, encouraging all EU Member States to disseminate publicly funded research through open access publication of scientific data and papers, free of charge.

Particularly, the European Commission, with Horizon 2020, has made a key step towards open science in Europe. In fact, all projects receiving Horizon 2020 funding must ensure open access to all peer-reviewed scientific publications relating to its results and, in the context of Horizon 2020, also a pilot on open access to research data is running.

Several European countries have already made progresses towards the transition to Open Science, while others, such as Italy, are still far to achieve that goal.

As stressed in the Amsterdam Call for Action on Open Science, the way to accelerate the transition to Open Science is to work together involving relevant stakeholders: government, universities, funders, researchers, publishers and also members of the public.

“Researchers, funders and publishers (I always thought that meant making things public) keep each other hostage in a deadly embrace by continuing to conduct, publish, fund and judge science in the same way as in the past centuryˮ, said Barend Mons, Chair of the Commission High Level Expert Group on the European Open Science Cloud (hleg-eosc).

Anyway, the deadline is 2020 for everyone: also for the big journals which will have revaluate their policy in light of developments within the scientific community and the society.  A greater access to scientific information means to make the results of research available to all, in order to facilitate societal engagement and therefore to create the basis for a responsible research and innovation.

MMLAP and other EU Projects

Health system analysis to support capacity development in response to the threat of pandemic influenza in Asia
Making society an active participant in water adaptation to global change
Public Participation in Developing a Common Framework for Assessment and Management of Sustainable Innovation
Engaging all of Europe in shaping a desirable and sustainable future
Expect the unexpected and know how to respond
Driving innovation in crisis management for European resilience
Effective communication in outbreak management: development of an evidence-based tool for Europe
Solutions to improve CBRNe resilience
Network for Communicable Disease Control in Southern Europe and Mediterranean Countries
Developing the framework for an epidemic forecast infrastructure
Strengthening of the national surveillance system for communicable diseases
Surveillance of vaccine preventable hepatitis
European monitoring of excess mortality for public health action
European network for highly infectious disease
Dedicated surveillance network for surveillance and control of vaccine preventable diseases in the EU
Modelling the spread of pandemic influenza and strategies for its containment and mitigation
Cost-effectiveness assessment of european influenza human pandemic alert and response strategies
Bridging the gap between science, stakeholders and policy makers
Promotion of immunization for health professionals in Europe
Towards inclusive research programming for sustainable food innovations
Addressing chronic diseases and healthy ageing across the life cycle
Medical ecosystem – personalized event-based surveillance
Studying the many and varied economic, social, legal and ethical aspects of the recent developments on the Internet, and their consequences for the individual and society at large
Get involved in the responsible marine research and innovation
Knowledge-based policy-making on issues involving science, technology and innovation, mainly based upon the practices in Parliamentary Technology Assessment
Assessment of the current pandemic preparedness and response tools, systems and practice at national, EU and global level in priority areas
Analysis of innovative public engagement tools and instruments for dynamic governance in the field of Science in Society
Public Engagement with Research And Research Engagement with Society
Computing Veracity – the Fourth Challenge of Big Data
Providing infrastructure, co-ordination and integration of existing clinical research networks on epidemics and pandemics
Promote vaccinations among migrant population in Europe
Creating mechanisms for effectively tackling the scientific and technology related challenges faced by society
Improve the quality of indoor air, keeping it free from radon
Improving respect of ethics principles and laws in research and innovation, in line with the evolution of technologies and societal concerns
Investigating how cities in the West securitise against global pandemics
Creating a structured dialogue and mutual learning with citizens and urban actors by setting up National Networks in 10 countries across Europe
Identifying how children can be change agents in the Science and Society relationship
Establishing an open dialogue between stakeholders concerning synthetic biology’s potential benefits and risks
Transparent communication in Epidemics: Learning Lessons from experience, delivering effective Messages, providing Evidence