Still life with several open and closed books lying on a shelf in a niche. In the middle a pen case, on the right a round and a rectangular box. Upper part of the left side panel with the prophet Isaiah, in the Museum Boijmans-Van Beuningen in Rotterdam. The right side panel is located in the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Brussels, the center panel with the proclamation is in the church of Ste. Madelaine in Aix-en-Provence.

New policy paper on access to publicly funded research

Published research outputs often end up locked behind paywalls, unavailable to many researchers and the broader public, impeding scientific – and human – progress. Despite progress in the area of open science, research funded by the European public is no exception to this. In many cases, European taxpayers are essentially asked to pay up twice, once for funding the research and again for access to the final publication. One reason for this is the transfer of copyright ownership. To comply with contractual demands, researchers routinely outright transfer their economic exploitation rights to publishers, or fail to retain sufficient rights that would allow them or their funders to republish or reuse their work. This contradicts the primary goal of research, which is to maximise its impact by sharing it as widely as possible in a timely manner.

Today, COMMUNIA is releasing Policy Paper #17 on access to publicly funded research (also available as a PDF file), in which we propose a targeted intervention in European copyright law to improve access to publicly funded research:

We recommend a three-tiered approach to open publicly funded research outputs to the public, immediately upon publication, where a secondary publication obligation co-exists with a secondary publication right. We consider that an obligation by the funding recipients to republish is a more consequential approach to protect the public interest, as it makes Open Access (OA) mandatory, ultimately ensuring that publicly funded research outputs are republished in OA repositories. A right is, however, necessary to ensure that the authors, and subsequently the funding recipients, retain the rights necessary to comply with the obligation. A  right also provides a legal framework for the dissemination in OA repositories of publicly funded research outputs published before the entry into force of a secondary publication obligation.

In addition, we recommend the introduction of a copyright exception for the benefit of knowledge institutions, such as libraries and archives, to further support the task of making available research outputs published before the entry into force of secondary publication rights and obligations.

Resolving these issues would ideally be part of a more comprehensive regulation, a Digital Knowledge Act, which addresses the needs of research organisations and other knowledge institutions in the digital environment more broadly.

Etching of a printer's press by Abraham Bosse.
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