Every six months, the Council of the European Union rotates its presidency among the European Union member states. The Netherlands, Slovak and Maltese presidencies of the Council of the EU collectively cover the presidential period from January 2016 to June 2017. From January to June 2016, the Netherlands presided over the Council, with Sander Dekker, the Netherlands State Secretary for Education, Culture and Science, overseeing decision-making on Open Science. The Dutch presidency of the Council has been reported on widely within the Open Access community and the popular press for its support of the Open Access movement in Europe. In this post, OASPA reviews the impact of the steps taken by the Dutch presidency to open up access to research, and the continued work by the Council of the European Union since to meet its goals towards openness.
In their 18th Month Programme of the Council, the Netherlands, Slovak and Maltese presidencies highlighted that they have made it their priority to progress the ongoing European Open Science Agenda. The Council has the ability to powerfully shape the future of open access in the EU.
From the outset of the Dutch presidency, the Netherlands highlighted the vital importance of progressing the open access movement. In the Presidency Edition of the State of the European Union in December 2015, which is presented annually to the Dutch Parliament by the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs and which was utilized to provide an overview of the aims of the Dutch presidency of the Council for their time ahead, it was argued that ‘the impact of investment on science and society can be magnified by improving the dissemination of and access to scientific knowledge, i.e. by practising open science and promoting open access.’ By the end of January 2016, State Secretary for Education, Culture and Science Sander Dekker had set the tone for the next six months by inviting Bill Gates to address the Council on the importance of open access, as well as holding a meeting with ministers with research in their portfolio to prepare to find ways to improve accessibility of research and bring open access ‘one step closer’.
April 2016 saw a two-day conference on Open Science hosted by the Dutch Presidency, in which representatives of EU member states, as well as stakeholders from across Europe working in research, publishing, and at universities, discussed the importance of progressing the Open Access movement. The outcome of the conference saw the launch of the Amsterdam Call for Action on Open Science. As well as detailing 12 action items, the Call for Action proposed two key goals:
- Full open access for all publicly funded scientific publications by 2020.
- Open data – the sharing and re-use of data – as the standard for all publicly funded research.
In order to achieve these goals, the European Commission set up the Open Science Policy Platform to enable all involved stakeholders to share their knowledge and strategies related to the facilitation of Open Science. OASPA is a member of this group, represented by Paul Peters, and is pleased to be involved in discussions shaping the future of open science in Europe. As Sander Dekker underscored, the importance of a Europe-wide collaboration on these efforts was argued to be vital: ‘The world of science is pre-eminently international… so you need to take an international approach to providing open access to scientific publications and sharing data and new assessment systems for scientists.’
After the PASTEUR4OA Green Light For Open Access Conference in Amsterdam in May 2016, which was an officially associated event with the Dutch Presidency and enabled those within the open access community to discuss how to focus the content of the more than 400 Open Access policies in place across Europe, the Competitiveness Committee – a configuration of the Council of the European Union that brings together ministers responsible for trade, economy, industry, research and innovation and space – adopted conclusions on the transition towards an open science system. This culminated in the European ministers of science, innovation, trade, and industry issuing an official announcement on May 27th, which detailed the ways European scientific articles could be made freely accessible by 2020: proposed European visas for foreign start-up founders, businesses and research institutions looking at removing barriers to innovation from existing European legislation, and more attention paid to the societal impact of research. The League of European Research Universities called the announcement ‘a major boost for the transition towards an Open Science system’.
Finally, in June 2016 the Presidency of the Council of the European Union and the Open State Foundation hosted the first TransparencyCamp Europe in Amsterdam – an ‘unconference’ that focused on EU open data, new technologies and policies. Beyond simply holding discussions on open data, technology activists and government officials were brought together to understand how civic technology applications are made and to debate broader questions of civic empowerment in relation to open data.
The Dutch presidency took great strides to accelerate Open Access in the EU in 2016. Such advances took place against a backdrop of a general momentum in accelerating Open Science in the EU in 2016; the Spring saw the European Commission declare their plans to create an Open Science Cloud, as well as announce plans to require Horizon 2020 projects to be made open access. The Dutch presidency lay a strong foundation for the next two Member States in presidency – Slovakia and Malta – to continue the important progress made by the Netherlands on Open Access. The Slovak presidency held a conference in which free movement of data was cited as the future fifth freedom of the EU, and hopes can be held high for strong continued progress for Open Access in the EU during the Maltese presidency. The setting up of the new Open Science Policy Platform (OSPP), intended to develop open science policy through discussions with a range of stakeholders including OASPA President, Paul Peters, further suggests the Open Access community will see a renewed focus on actions to foster Open Science initiatives in the EU in 2017.