PSI Directive compromise agrees to make publicly-funded research data open by default

27th February 2019News, Open Access, Open Data, Open Science

SPARC Europe, together with DCC, EBLIDA, LIBER, and IFLA, have been successful in promoting Open Science throughout the trilogue negotiation of the proposed directive on the re-use of public sector information (recast) (the “PSI Directive”— [2018/0111(COD)]). Our main proposals have been included in the provisional trilogue agreed text endorsed by the Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER 1) on February 6, 2019. This is a true testament to the EU embracing Open Science and its clear commitment to innovation and transparency.

How is the PSI Directive relevant to Open Science?

Generally, the directive updates a 2013 text and aims to enhance the way that open data and publicly funded research is made available, accessed and shared. The Commission had presented its proposal in April 2018 as part of its digital single market (DSM) project to encourage Europe’s digital economy. In practice, it intends to improve digital public services in the age of new technologies, such as AI, and help local tech startups, for example app builders, grow their businesses across Europe. The new text also states that “high-value datasets” would need to be made freely available across the EU. It also specifically addresses improving access to research data, as stated in Article 10 on Research Data, which reads: “Member States shall support the availability of research data by adopting national policies and relevant actions aiming at making publicly funded research data openly available (‘open access policies’) following the principle of open by default and compatible with FAIR principles.”

Thanks to influencing efforts, the application of the FAIR principles (findable, accessible, interoperable, reusable) and making data “as open as possible, as closed as necessary” feature in the text of Article 10 on Research Data.

What we are most pleased about is that SPARC Europe and partner organisations have adamantly argued that the default must be open access to publicly funded research data. Recital 24 states that: “Under the national open access policies, publicly-funded research data should be made open as the default option.” In the chapter on conditions for re-use, Article 5 also mentions “open by design and by default.” Although the text clearly stipulates that research data should be made “as open as possible, as closed as necessary,” a clear delimitation of the few situations in which data should not be made available (e.g. concerns relating to intellectual property rights, personal data protection and confidentiality, security and legitimate commercial interests) is also provided for.

It should be importantly noted that “research data shall be re-usable for commercial or non-commercial purposes …. insofar as they are publicly funded and researchers, research performing organisations or research funding organisations have already made them publicly available through an institutional or subject-based repository”. This means that data must be submitted in one of these repositories were it to come under the directive. 

Knowledge transfer activities must now also be taken into account when making research re-usable for commercial or non-commercial purposes under the directive (Article 10(2)). We have also pushed for effective preservation policies of digital information in view of the threats posed by technological obsolescence and loss of data. We are grateful that Article 9(1) unequivocally calls on Member States to facilitate the preservation of documents:

“Member States shall also encourage public sector bodies to make practical arrangements facilitating the preservation of documents available for re-use.”

This represents a huge improvement over the current situation where public sector information is not always made openly available, with negative consequences for Europe’s innovation-based sector and to the detriment of the fundamental principle of freedom of access to information.

Next steps

After COREPER and the ITRE Committee’s endorsement in February, the text needs to be checked from legal and linguistic points of view. The legal act then needs to be formally adopted by the European Parliament in plenary, and the Council, at the ministerial level. This is expected to take place this spring.

For additional information, see the Council’s press release dated February 6, 2019.