CERN confirms its commitment to open access to scientific information. At a meeting last Wednesday, the Organization's executive committee endorsed a policy of open access to all the laboratory's results, as expressed in the document ‘Continuing CERN action on Open Access’ http://doc.cern.ch/archive/electronic/cern/preprints/open/open-2005-006.pdf , released by its Scientific Information Policy Board (SIPB) earlier in the month. “This underlines CERN's commitment to sharing the excitement of fundamental research with as wide an audience as possible", said Guido Altarelli, current SIPB chairman.
Open Access to scientific knowledge is today the goal of an increasing component of the worldwide scientific community. It is a concept, made possible by new electronic tools, which would bring enormous benefits to all readers by giving them free access to research results.
CERN has implicitly supported such moves from its very beginning. Its Convention http://doc.cern.ch/archive/electronic/other/preprints//CM-P/cm-p00046871.pdf , adopted in 1953 by 12 European founding Member States, requires openness, stipulating that “… the results of its experimental and theoretical work shall be published or otherwise made generally available”. However, it is only in recent years that the technology has been developed that enables this aim to be achieved in practice.
It was this ideal of openness and sharing in a large community that led Tim Berners-Lee to invent the World Wide Web at CERN. Nowadays CERN and its collaborating institutions are developing Grid computing, which will allow physicists from all over the world to analyse the data from its new machine, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).
The above endorsement followed earlier steps that CERN had taken in the past 18 months in the direction of Open Access: approval by the SIPB in November 2003 of the document ‘An electronic publishing policy for CERN’ http://doc.cern.ch/archive/electronic/cern/preprints/open/open-2005-006.pdf ; signing of the Berlin Declaration http://www.zim.mpg.de/openaccess-berlin/berlindeclaration.html in May 2004 at a meeting in CERN on its implementation (Berlin 2); and the presentation of its proposed plan at a meeting in Southampton in February 2005 (Berlin 3).
The Southampton meeting passed a resolution http://www.eprints.org/berlin3/outcomes.html that closely matches the steps advocated by CERN, calling on research institutions to adopt the two essential features of the Open Access movement, namely:
a) to implement policies requiring their researchers to deposit each published article in a freely-accessible electronic repository, and
b) to encourage their researchers to publish their research in open access journals, including providing the support to enable this changeover to take place.
The ever-increasing cost of traditional scientific publishing methods is another incentive towards changing the publishing model. The CERN Library is currently unable to offer complete coverage of even its core subjects.
“Authors must continue to have the freedom to publish where they want,” said Altarelli, “and currently only rather few journals have adopted Open Access with acceptable business models.” The position of CERN as a leading international research laboratory and its advocacy of Open Access could cause this situation to change quickly.