A growing number of ministers want scientific knowledge to be accessible for everyone, says Secretary of State Sander Dekker.
This week the European ministers of research and innovation gathered in Amsterdam. There the Secretary of State Dekker again firmly supported open access in science: the principle that the results of scientific research should be accessible for everyone.
Do you still need to convince your colleagues of open access?
‘Actually not any more. Two, three years ago the Netherlands and Great Britain were predecessors in this discussion, but we are now reaching a phase where policy makers and universities are increasingly convinced that we need to steer that way. Now the question is mainly: how do we go about it? In the coming five months, during the Dutch chairmanship of the EU, we want to form realistic ambitions that can help the universities in the negotiations with the large publishers.’
You want to help the market?
‘That is possible, but it also helps that the universities are convinced of the importance. The conversations with the publishers are now being held at a higher level. It are no longer the directors of university libraries that are negotiating on the subscription of the magazines, but the presidents of the universities. In the Netherlands a nice deal was made with the publisher Springer and also Elsevier is taking a first step in the direction of open access.’
‘If we work together in Europe, we can get even further. We will receive a petition from the European university association LERU with ten thousand signatures of leading scientists which are asking us: do something about this. I see this as a big boost.’
What do you want to achieve within Europe?
‘That open access will play a large role. In response to our invitation, Bill Gates held a speech on open access Tuesday evening. His Bill & Malinda Gates Foundation pays, inter alia, for research on infectious diseases and requires that all researchers, the best minds of the whole world, can work with the results. Especially also in Africa.’
‘In the conditions of the European research money it is now stated that researchers must make their results available ‘as soon as possible’, but this leaves room for long embargo periods [in which access is not allowed to users who have not paid for access]. This falls short of the Dutch research financer NWO: who now requires that the results are immediately made available in open access.’
If your colleagues are now convinced, what is the problem? Why do magazines such as Nature and Science still have so much influence?
‘This is related to the career of young researchers. How do we judge their publications? If young researchers can publish in Nature or Science, we do not want to deny them that opportunity. Which is justifiable, and I understand that. It is a big temptation.’
Does it help that the Netherlands now has the chairmanship of the EU?
The chairmanship has pros and cons. We are able to put the topic on the agenda. In April we are organizing a large meeting on open science. But as chairman you are also an honest broker. At such a meeting I need to make sure that good ‘conclusions’ are made and I cannot spend the whole day defending the Dutch position. But one thing is sure: open access is catching on, also with colleagues in other countries.’