With the open access protests (e.g. Elsevier boycott) reaching their climax in the past weeks, OA has been condemned to ultimate failure in Europe with the European Commission putting a final and unequivocal stop to it. In analogy to the RWA (Research Works Act) in the USA, according to which scholarly publishers like Elsevier hoped to claw back total ownership of federally funded research, the European Union has started a hot debate on banning OA to scientific literature for the public. Their argumentation is mainly based on the idea to transfer the revenues made by the publishing industry into funds accessible for the academic world and only the academic world. Thus a private scientific journal publishing company could not keep all the money earned through their subscription fees, but would have to pay a third of its income to the European Union. With all this new influx of money, the EU would announce scholarships for talented academics – paying their research expenses and projects. This would render public access to journals a distant dream – mainly academics would be able to access journals through their standing university or library subscriptions (it’s not like anybody else is paying the exorbitant per article fees).
Frightening European Changes of OA policies
Two days ago, the European Commission and the Division of Research and Education has presented a bill proposal regarding open access to scientific journals. Since the discussions on open access have steadily increased in the public, the European Commission in cooperation with their American counterpart decided to put an end to this hot spot of public debate. The suggested legislative would completely shut down green or gold open access initiatives, creating a sort of tax per article for all scientific publishers.
With the new reform they hope to funnel more money from the private sector back to funding research. Although this sounds like a paradox at a first glance, the idea behind the system is as follows:
Researchers (and other interested people) would still have to pay for access to journals. In turn, one third of those subscriptions and fees would serve as funds for research projects. The European Research Funds Committee (ERFC) would manage this new tax and the further allocation of money thus collected. The ERFC assures us that applications for the grants funded by this new tax would start in the beginning of 2013. Researchers are welcome to apply for these European scholarships that will be given to highly innovative research ideas. Of course, research ideas only in the European Union. In order to support young researchs at the startpoint of their academic career, emphasize will be given to funding young academics.
The draft of the new bill (nicknamed Open Access Project Manhattan) contains the following:
1. Prevention of Gold Open Access, meaning that journals should not be accessible for free to the research community or the public, since the product of a research study is considered private property owned by the publisher. Gold open access journals are illegal within the European Union.
2. Prevention of Green Open Access. All European university or library repositories will be shut down under the threat of legal sanctions. The ERFC will ensure the control of personal websites of most prominent researchers (for starters) in an academic field in order to prevent any possibility of granting green open access through private resources.
3. Identification of radical proponents of the open access movement in the European research community. They would be offered to participate in the CPR program of reeducation (short for Corporate Publishers Have a Right To Their Research, with an emphasize on their) or prohibited from participating in any part of the publishing process (be it as editor or author).
Althought it is unlikely that such an extreme bill proposal might turn into a EU wide legislative, it is probable that some milder version of it could be realized. The publishers are somewhat skeptic of the proposal, but they would rather give up a part of their profit than see the open access movement thrive and in the long run, bringing their sector to thorough and encompassing reform.
Controversy with the new bill
The European Parliament is, of course, aware of the outrage this legislative reform might cause in the public such as in, well, all of the scientific community in Europe. However, our anonymous source in the European Commission states that this will finally be a moment when the EU is taking the lead role in scientific legislation and could possibly create a European wide research zone capable of competing with the Americans. On the other hand, an anonymous source from the ERFC informed us that the Commission’s plan wasn’t to increase funding for research, but to use the money gathered through the new “science tax” to stabilize the faltering EU economy. Only a chunk of income from the scientific publishing industry could end the global economy crisis, they add.
And as your worries and outrage with reading this post increase, we feel responsible to reveal that this article is a JEPS gift to you for today’s APRIL FOOLS DAY! All information given in this post has been invented. Please stop hyperventilating and laugh! Hopefully, it has reminded you of all the things that are wrong with the publishing industry.
As being part of EFPSA’s JEPS team, Sina Scherer works as JEPS Bulletin’s editor and is currently enrolled in the last year of her Master programme in Work and Organizational Psychology at the Westfälische Wilhelmsuniversität Münster. Her fields of interest cover the areas of Intercultural Psychology, Personality and Organizational Psychology such as Health Psychology.