Horizon 2020 votes in ITRE (open access, open innovation)

Me and the colleagues are voting on those legislative files which will create the next European research framework program, Horizon 2020. It is five or six legislative files, all of which regulate different aspects of European research and strive for excellence. The parliament has had very extensive discussions this year on open access (to research publications or to research data) and open innovation.

Now, most of our discussions have been very productive. The industry and research committe, ITRE, has been considerably more careful than I would have liked with respect to open acess to data, and the majorities have not been in favour of strong transparency requirements for entities dealing with public money and intellectual property rights, but rather optional or preferred transparency mechanisms. Still, in the end most of the committee reports decided not to stop any ongoing trials for open access to data, and to endorse the open access to publications.

The legislative file on Horizon 2020 called "Rules of Participation", the law which establishes under which conditions under which people can participate or apply for money from the research framework program, turned out relatively ghastly. I had hoped for establishment of open acess terms and dissemination at the start of the program, with dissemination and open access being, in terms, obligatory with the possibility of a short exclusivity retention period. Industry lobbies said that they in principle would prefer an option to have exclusive access to research data for periods as short as 6 months up to a year, but made no claims that exclusive access would be needed for eternity. The rapporteur instead advocated a line where all open access and dissemination is optional, and where terms of dissemination do not have to be put down before the grant is granted. The rapporteur, a German conservative, won - even though his position was far away both from researchers, industry lobbyists and members of his own political group, not to mention his government.

In the legislative file on centers of excellence in the European Union, the committee decided to reject, with a very minute majority, the proposals to establish transparency requirements for IPR management in research projects funded by public money. The closest analogy I can think of is the mobile phone wars or the Sony/LG case from the Netherlands on gaming consoles a couple of years back: it was uncertain whether or not there were patents covering the standard bearing technologies and if so which patents these would be or how they should be licensed easily. In the mobile and gaming console cases, of course the IPRs were (probably) mostly produced through private investments (this is of course a matter of definition), so it is different - one would think we would be more keen on having transparency in the cases where we've used public money to make the IPRs.

Now, it is looking unlikely that there are any opportunities for us to remedy these short-comings of the H2020 reports in terms of information management. The only reason one could want the terms that we approved today with a minute majority today, is that one wants to make the argument in the budget negotiations that the Rules of Participation are really bad and that therefore the research budget can be cut. There are no other logical explanations that I can find, because open access and transparency in patent thickets, or obligatory patent pools, for instance, are useful requirements that would kind of help industry and the European economy, not to mention researchers.


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