It's high time something like this happened.
The sheer quantity of scientific publishing being outputted is astonishing -- and that's a great thing. Scientists, and science in general, are experiencing a very strange time; on one hand, there is more research being done than ever before in history, but on the other hand, it's harder than ever to publish results, it's harder than ever to verify studies, and reading a single paper can easily cost you up to $50. Well, at least the last bit is set to change, for Europe at least.
The European Union states want to make sure everyone is getting their fair share of science, making all papers from authors who received funding from the EU or a national government freely available to all European citizens - and that's almost all the studies. The EU is also looking into a European visa for foreign start-up founders, to make sure scientific information reaches the people in need.
The Netherlands EU Presidency website made the announcement:
‘Research and innovation generate economic growth and more jobs and provide solutions to societal challenges,’ the state secretary said. ‘And that means a stronger Europe. To achieve that, Europe must be as attractive as possible for researchers and start-ups to locate here and for companies to invest. That calls for knowledge to be freely shared. The time for talking about open access is now past. With these agreements, we are going to achieve it in practice.’
This move didn't come out of the blue. Europe has been pressing for open-access science and similar echoes have been heard throughout the world. Of course, this is just another step, but it's a big one. Every individual country will decide on its own way of publishing the articles, additionally to what the EU will be doing.
The results of publicly funded research are currently not accessible to people outside universities and knowledge institutions. As a result, teachers, doctors and entrepreneurs do not have access to the latest scientific insights that are so relevant to their work, and universities have to make expensive subscriptions to publishers to gain access to publications.