The European Commission has announced measures to enable people to gain access to publicly-funded research documents for free, as part of a series of proposals to boost the single market in the field of research and innovation.
The decision, three weeks after Microsoft lost a case before the European Union’s General Court against a Commission fine of €899 million, could lead to another financial penalty, of up to 10% of its turnover. “If, following our investigation, the infringement is confirmed, Microsoft should expect sanctions,” Almunia said.
The case dates back to a settlement in 2009 when Microsoft agreed to give internet-users with the Windows operating system a choice of browsers, rather than automatically directing them to Microsoft’s own Internet Explorer browser.
Microsoft was supposed to have included a ‘browser choice screen’ with its Windows 7 Service Pack 1, which was released in February 2011. In December Microsoft told the Commission that had complied with its commitments. But the Commission said that – based on information it had received – this was not the case.
“From February 2011 until today, millions of Windows users in the EU may not have seen the choice screen,” the Commission said in a statement. “Microsoft has recently acknowledged that the choice screen was not displayed during that period.”
Microsoft said that it had “moved as quickly as we can to address the error and to provide a full accounting of it to the Commission”.
In a statement, it added: “While we have taken immediate steps to remedy this problem, we deeply regret that this error occurred and we apologise for it.”
Neelie Kroes, the European commissioner for the digital agenda, who announced the plan on Tuesday (17 July), addressed taxpayers directly when she said: “You paid for this research, you should have access to the results.”
Kroes said that making it easier for researchers and businesses to build on the findings of publicly-funded research would give the EU a better return on its €87 billion-a-year investment in research and development.
As of 2014, all articles produced with funding from Horizon 2020 – the EU’s research and innovation funding programme – will either be made accessible online by the publisher immediately or be made available through an open-access service no later than six months after publication.
Kroes responded to criticism that the move would adversely affect publishers of academic journals. “I’m certain they will continue in getting new business models, because times change and we are not in the 17th or 18th century any more,” she said.
The announcement came as the Commission set out measures that it said it would take to remove barriers to the single market for research and innovation. “We cannot continue with a situation where research funding is not always allocated competitively, where positions are not always filled with merit, where researchers can rarely take their grants or have access to research programmes across borders, and where large parts of Europe are not even in the game,” said Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, the European commissioner for research, innovation and science, on Tuesday.
The Commission is to step up its monitoring of priorities under its European Research Area action plan, which is aiming to increase co-operation between researchers and research institutions from one member state to another by 2014.
Most notably, it will monitor the extent to which member states are encouraging more women into research, co-operating with each other and opening up their labour markets for researchers by making grants and pensions portable across borders, and ensuring that recruitment to academic positions is transparent and based on merit.
“I will not hesitate to name and shame member states that fall behind,” Geoghegan-Quinn said.
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