Free access to research

Universities and research institutions are calling for scientific journal articles and the data they are based on to be accessible for free over the course of the next three years.
By Peter Keizer / Translation by Traci White

On Thursday, the organisations presented the National Plan Open Science to State Secretary Sander Dekker. In addition to being made available to all interested parties via open access, the institutions also want data from research financed through public money to be provided for future use.

Scientific research is not currently freely accessible. The results are published by the researchers in journals so that their colleagues can learn about their work. Universities have been in a pinch for years due to the increasing subscription costs of the scientific journals, despite having their content, editing and peer review provided by the researchers themselves free of charge.

Annually, universities pay 43 million euros for scientific journals. The RUG paid four millions euros for subscriptions in 2015.


The ten parties behind the plan – VSNU, KNAW, NWO, Vereniging Hogescholen, KB, SURF, NFU, ZonMw, Promovendi Netwerk Nederland and GO FAIR – want open science to become a reality in the Netherlands. To that end, they will enter ‘serious negotiations’ with the scientific publishers. For the publishers, whose earnings model is based upon subscriptions, that signifies a profound change.

‘It will be a major challenge’, says Jaap Winter in Trouw. He is the president of the Vrije Universiteit and is negotiating with the publishers on behalf of the Dutch universities. ‘One way or another, we either have to get to a place where everyone can read the articles and the publishers can still make a living, or we will take the matter into our own hands by publishing purely online.’


Last year, the EU accepted a resolution from the Dutch lobby to make open access the standard by 2020.

Nobel Prize winner Ben Feringa states in Trouw that he is a proponent of the plans, but questions who will be paying for all of this. Furthermore, access to the data is not the main issue. ‘Anyone who puts a little bit of effort into it can access them, and we are already presented with so much information. It’s really about the quality of the information. How do we assess what that is worth?’ According to Feringa, that assessment – peer review – is not as well managed in open access journals.



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