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European Commission forging ahead to boost public sector information and open science

Open Access, Open Data, Open Science


Laboratory Science – biomedical by Bill Dickinson, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

While the EU copyright reform teeters on the edge of turning into a complete disaster, last week the European Commission published a proposal for a revision of the Directive on the reuse of public sector information (PSI Directive), and a recommendation on access to and preservation of scientific information. Both of these documents are a part of a package of measures aiming to foster a common data space in the EU. Both are welcome additions, as they offer proactive steps to improve the re-use of public sector data and scientific research across Europe.

Revision of the Public Sector Information Directive

The PSI Directive first came into effect in 2003 and required EU Member States to make public information and resources that they produce and collect reusable to the greatest possible extent and was broadened in 2013.  The Commission has already released a recommendation on using Creative Commons licenses such as CC BY and the CC0 Public Domain Dedication to share public sector information.

The revised proposal released last week would further expand the PSI Directive. The update would increase the availability of data by bringing new types of publicly funded data into the scope of the directive, including data related to transportation. It would also push to increase business opportunities by encouraging the publication of dynamic data via application programming interfaces (APIs), as opposed to publishing data in static and difficult-to-use formats such as PDFs. These are welcome changes.  

Of particular interest is the expansion of the Directive to cover research data. According to the proposal, research data is defined as “documents in a digital form, other than scientific publications, which are collected or produced in the course of scientific research activities and are used as evidence in the research process, or are commonly accepted in the research community as necessary to validate research findings and results.” The question of whether to expand the Directive to cover scientific research results was included in the public consultation by the Commission last year. We agreed that research resulting from public funding should be available free of charge and with unrestricted reusability. But since there’s several ongoing policies related to open access to research, we urged the Commission to ensure that policy efforts to improve access to publicly funded scientific research are complementary—and not in conflict with—each other.

A final important addition in the new proposed revision is a clarification that where databases fall under the scope of the PSI Directive, the public sector body responsible for the database may not use the Database Directive to prevent or restrict the reuse of documents. (Elsewhere we’ve argued that the sui generis protection in the Database Directive should be deleted altogether).

New recommendations on access to and preservation of scientific information

Another interesting communication released last week was the Recommendation on access to and preservation of Scientific Information. In the document, the European Commission reinforces the notion that access to and re-use of publicly funded research is a “crucial ingredient in advancing science and benefiting society,” and that “scientific information resulting from public funding should be accessible and re-usable with as few restrictions as possible.” We agree. The results of publicly funded scientific research should be made available under permissive open licenses (such as CC BY), or even put into the worldwide public domain using a tool like CC0.

The Commission recommendations call on Member States to:

Both the revised proposal for the PSI Directive and the new recommendations to promote access and preservation of scientific information are steps in the right direction to expand the  re-use of public sector data and scientific research across Europe. They signal a push from the Commission to further integrate these related policies. It will be important that these policies are implemented with care and in consultation with stakeholders to “ensure the coherence and the complementarity between EU open access and open data policies.”

Posted 03 May 2018