The European Commission (EC) has said it plans to throw its weight behind a move to make scientific research results freely available online.
In a bid to speed up the dissemination of scientific discoveries, the EC said it plans to shake up the old-fashioned world of scientific publishing where, until now, results have been published in journals along with peer reviews of the research.
Publishers of scientific, technical and medical journals argue that the peer review system wouldn't work as reliably if results were published arbitrarily online.
"Nobody will benefit if a major European industry is undermined and with it the peer review system upon which science and society depend," said the International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers (STM) in a statement ahead of the Commission’s announcement.
And publishers, which include giants like Reed Elsevier and McGraw-Hill, also co-signed a petition to Europe's lawmakers dubbed the ‘Brussels Declaration’, calling for leniency.
The EC is hosting a two-day conference this week with the publishers as well as with advocates of a free, internet-based model for scientific publishing.
In a statement, the Commission made it clear that it favours freer access to research results. It is planning to spend about €85 million (£57.2m) over the next two years improving the digital storage and online accessibility of scientific results.
Digital technologies are reshaping how research information is viewed, analysed and eventually published, it said. For example, about 90% of all science journals are now available online, often by subscription. But digital technologies are also leading to more "open access" publishing. This provides free and wide access to publications online. Better access to research data also opens the way to new types of uses and services, often through the reusing of past results as the raw material for new experimentation.