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Adoption of Open Access gathers pace

Amid the discussion and comment on the UK Government's response to the Science and Technology Committee's report, the world-wide enthusiasm and official adoption of open access policies continues.

On 5th November, 32 rectors of Italian universities released the Messina Declaration and confirmed their adherence to the principles of the Berlin Declaration. This has been followed by Austrian Rectors' Conference also signing the Berlin Declaration on 11th November. See the complete list of signatories.

Meanwhile, a little further north, delegates to the Russian National Library conference on 28th October released the St Petersburg Declaration, laying down the clear principle that publicly funded research should be made publicly available:

" . . . enabling access to public domain information produced by public authorities should become fundamental to the national information policies of all nations striving for democracy and freedom of human development. Public authorities, as well as libraries, archives and various information services providers should assume a primary responsibility for the expansion of openness and management of information as public domain. The mainstream principle of information management should be as follows: information produced by public authorities should be deemed publicly available, and any exceptions to this rule officially banning the said access should be justified, minimized and supported by the power of law."

The Wellcome Trust has announced the establishment of a European PubMed Central, together with a requirement that any of its funded projects be deposited on open access within this new repository. This echoes one of the recommendations of the Select Committee's report for publicly funded research.

The UK Science and Technology Select Committee originally framed their investigation into science publishing without direct mention of institutional repositories. It investigated repositories because the Committee realised that they were relevant and it came to its conclusions and recommendations through the force of arguments presented to it by all stakeholders. In other words, the Select Committee Report did not start from partisan roots, but represents the best independent review and conclusions of the situation. As such this must remain a great encouragement to those working towards Open Access and the establishment of institutional repositories.

A number of bodies, including SHERPA, gave responses to the Select Committee report, which have been published as the fourteenth report of the Committee. SHERPA's response is also available separately. The Government Response to the Select Committee report supports the establishment of institutional repositories and the value of a comprehensive network of such repositories. However, its stops short of backing the Report's recommendations for funding to support the national collaborative work that will be required and of mandating that research material should be mounted within the repositories. Having said that, the response does give a foundation on which to build. SHERPA will continue to play a part in this for the duration of the project. SHERPA institutions now have 18 live repositories gathering material and together with other existing repositories these form a backbone around which national work can continue.

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