Coalition Agreement of 2021: Open Access to Become Standard in Science and Humanities

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Last Wednesday, the "traffic light parties" SPD, Greens and FDP presented the coalition agreement for the 20th legislative period of the German Bundestag: Dare More Progress. Alliance for Freedom, Justice and Sustainability. (German only; literal translation of German title). In the areas of innovation, sciences and humanities, higher education and research, the new government aims, among other things, to establish Open Access as a common standard.

As early as on page 21, the coalition partners commit themselves to strengthening Open Access and Open Science: "We want to strongly improve and facilitate access to research data for public and private research with a Research Data Act and introduce research clauses". With the announcement of the introduction of a Research Data Act, the coalition agreement contains a comparatively concrete measure compared to the coalition agreement of the previous government.

In the agreement of the 19th legislative period of 2018 (German only), the government, which is currently still acting as a caretaker, announced that it would therefore "regularly oblige recipients of funding within the framework of federal project funding to make their publications freely available by means of open licences" (page 33). The new coalition agreement moves beyond this, as not only publicly but also privately funded research data are to be made available to the public by the new law. However, no details on funding are given here. The formulations "to improve" and "to facilitate" access also remain quite general; it would be more concrete and desirable here to commit recipients to free licensing, as is the case for federally funded publications in the 2018 coalition agreement.

Furthermore, the coalition partners want to work "for a more science-friendly copyright"; the agreement leaves open what such a copyright could potentially look like or what measures could be taken to achieve this.

In the chapter "Science Communication and Participation", the designated government announces on page 24 that it intends to integrate citizen science more strongly into research. Open Access and Open Science are to be strengthened. Here, there are no descriptions of measures and objectives. On the positive side, the term Open Science has found its way into the coalition negotiations in contrast to the coalition agreement of the previous legislative period.

Conclusion

Although the plannings on the topic of Open Access and Open Science remain largely unspecific, one aspect of the coalition agreement gives cause for hope regarding the expansion of an open publication culture: the introduction of a Research Data Act that regulates (hopefully free) access to data from public and private research and establishes Open Access as a common standard.

It will be exciting to see how the upcoming government advances the strengthening of Open Access and Open Science. We will report on new events and measures here.


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