All publicly funded scientific papers published in Europe could be made free to access by 2020 under a ‘life-changing’ reform ordered by the European Union’s science chief, Carlos Moedas.
The Competitiveness Council- a gathering of ministers of science innovation trade and industry agreed on the target following a two-day meeting in Brussels last week.
The move means publications of the results of research supported by public and public-private funds would be freely available to and reusable by anyone.
It could affect the paid-for subscription model used by many scientific journals and undermine the common practice of releasing reports under embargo.
At present the results of some publicly funded research are not accessible to people outside universities and similar institutions without one-off payments – which means that many teachers doctors entrepreneurs and others do not have access to the latest scientific insights.
In the UK funding bodies generally require that researchers publish under open access terms with open access publishing fees paid from the researcher’s grant.
The council said this data must be made accessible unless there were well-founded reasons for not doing so such as intellectual property rights or security or privacy issues.