Neelie Kroes: Open Access to science and data = cash and economic bonanza


They say we are entering the era of open science.  I’ve said that, too. But in fact it is only partly true. Because in reality, science has always been inherently open.  Right from the start, even before the first learned societies or the earliest academic journals, the scientific community realised that it is through openness that they examine, compare and learn.  That is how one scientist’s bright idea can spread to become an accepted scientific theory. How one experiment in one lab can become a foundation on which to build, and an inspiration to others.  Without that openness and sharing, scientific practice would look very different.

Now we have the Internet, the greatest tool for sharing information ever invented. The Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities, 10 years ago, recognised just that. I quote: “The Internet has fundamentally changed the practical and economic realities of distributing scientific knowledge and cultural heritage.” And we need to make use of this change. Otherwise we are not doing justice to the power of digital, nor to the potential of science. And we would certainly not be doing justice to taxpayers – who, after all, pay the biggest part of the research bill and deserve to benefit as fully as possible.

Embracing this change is good for all of us: avoiding duplication while facilitating replication, accelerating discovery, and driving innovation.  Of course, you only get so far with “one size fits all”. Different domains have different cultures and characteristics. But all face similar challenges, and all stand to gain from this change. And today as much as ever, it’s clear that openness can transform every academic discipline, both sciences and humanities.  Making the most of that openness has been one of the main themes of my mandate as European Commissioner for the Digital Agenda. My support for open science and open access starts right back with the Digital Agenda itself, three and a half years ago. This grew to a statement of principle as we created the Innovation Union.

And from there on it moved on as we planned our research and innovation policies, including Horizon 2020, and through the 2011 Open Data Strategy, the 2012 Scientific Information package and the European Research Area. In short: we’ve been busy. So maybe that explains why I couldn’t attend recent Berlin conferences – but I’m very pleased to be here for this year’s anniversary edition!  Ladies and Gentlemen, the EU has long supported research and innovation. Because investing in the future is the best way to support economic growth and tackle social problems. And in this area, as in so many others, we work best when we work together, as Europe.  Horizon 2020, the EU research and innovation programme for the next 7 years, will provide nearly 80 billion euros of EU funding for research and innovation.

The EU will be supporting open science through the whole programme. The rule will be open access to all publications that come out of it. We start with requiring open access to research data, too. And we are asking national funding bodies to do the same. That is our intention, as many of you know well.  Here to read more.

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