by Kristin Houser September 5, 2018 Hard Science

A BOLD MOVE. If you’re going to fund your research using public money, you better make sure the public can access the published study.

That’s a new rule from 11 European organizations that fund science research. On Tuesday, the organizations launched cOAlition S, an initiative designed to ensure that, starting in 2020, researchers publish every project funded by public grants in an open access journal or platform.

A RIGHT TO ACCESS. Members of cOAlition S include UK Research and Innovation, the French National Research Agency, and the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research. In total, the 11 organizations spend roughly €7.6 billion ($8.7 billion) each year funding research projects.

Often, researchers choose to publish studies about their work in journals that require a paid subscription to access, such as Nature or Science, because these publications are often considered more prestigious than their open access counterparts.

When published via a subscription journal, a project exists behind a paywall that restricts immediate access to only those willing to pony up some cash. It’s not until months or even years after publication that a paper becomes available to anyone for free.

BETTER FOR EVERYONE. These restrictions don’t sit right with open access advocates. They argue that, since the general public funds much of this research through taxes, it has a right to access the research as soon as it’s ready for publication.

Open access is also important for education, advocates note, since it means that students can learn the most up-to-date science. Finally, open access gives researchers the opportunity to build on each other’s work without having to worry about paying to access it.

ACROSS THE POND. In the U.S., the open access movement has had limited success over the past two decades. But now that these 11 European organizations have drawn a line in the sand — publish in open access journals or say goodbye to funding — there might be a blueprint for government agencies to follow as they map out their own transition to open access.

Starting that kind of global transition is a not-so-secret extra goal of cOAlition S, according to Marc Schiltz, president of Science Europe, which helped organize the initiative.

“We think this could create a tipping point,” he told Science. “Really the idea was to make a big, decisive step — not to come up with another statement or an expression of intent.”

The new rules won’t go into effect for another couple of years, which should give publications time to rethink their business models. If they don’t, they can say goodbye to any research funded by the cOAlition S members and the organizations they inspire.

READ MORE: European Science Funders Ban Grantees From Publishing in Paywalled Journals [Science]

More on open access: A New Browser Plug-in Lets You Access Millions of Scientific Papers for Free