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EU: all publicly funded science papers free since 2020?

Some EU authorities have presented an ambitious plan. The Competitiveness Council and the Dutch EU presidency were involved. (On July 1st, Slovakia will take over the EU presidency.)

In four years, all scientific papers resulting from publicly funded research should be available to everyone for free.

I tend to say that it's a natural plan. The public funds the research so the public may expect to have access to all the results. Well, it's only the public at some territory that has paid and the whole world will have access to the results – so the benefactors and the beneficiaries don't quite match. But some people could say that they're close enough. ;-)

Needless to say, it would be pretty tragic or dangerous if a similar condition were imposed on the papers resulting from privately sponsored research. Thankfully, they are not doing such a thing.

Still, such a change represents a transformation of the status quo for journals and others that currently depend on the papers' not being quite for free. The journals and others should be compensated in some way – either via a one-time compensation or in some proportional way, according to some formula, and I think that the proponents of the paradigm should think hard and figure out how to deal with these things.

Without such a compensation, the policy could be considered a partial liquidation or nationalization (well, a supernationalization because the EU isn't a nation state) of the journals and others who currently get some revenue from papers' not being free. And I would personally find it unacceptable because even though these companies may have demanded very high fees etc., they have been doing some respectable things for science, anyway, they had totally decent and legal owners or stockholders, and they simply shouldn't be existentially damaged just because they have been successful in the enterprise involving the selection, refinement, publication, and the selective access to the scientific papers.

There was a similar plan localized to high energy physics that all papers in the field should be free by now. Has it fully succeeded? I can basically get all the new papers I need – but is the rule really general? Has it worked? Were all the journals satisfied with the outcome etc.? Can the HEP experience serve as a template for all of science? Can the success be extended to older papers as well?

We will see what happens. It's completely possible that the European Union will no longer exist in 2020 – or it will exist in a very different form than the today's form. But this particular plan is an example of a social engineering that I can imagine to be a positive advance. Am I wrong?

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