For an Open Science
In French speaking part of Belgium
Open letter to the parliamentarians of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation in the framework of the discussion on the Open Access Decree
Thank you all!
The primary purpose of Science is to improve the well-being of everyone and to expand the knowledge of humanity. To achieve this goal, the widest possible dissemination of new knowledge generated by researchers is essential. Researchers around the world now consider that it is not normal for science's achievements to be confined to narrow circles even though such research works for the common good and is largely funded by citizens.
Today, in the age of the Internet and instant communication, knowledge must be fully a common good of humanity and no longer be reserved for a limited number of privileged individuals. It is the philosophy that is at the heart of the « Open Access movement »: to make freely accessible to all any scientific work carried out with public means and published (i.e. made public) by researchers.
This movement has experienced dramatic developments in recent years. Around the world, a very large number of international organizations and institutions, as well as universities, research centers and research funding agencies, have taken strong positions in favor of free and open access to scientific information. The progress of Open Access is considerable, especially in French-speaking Belgium with the development of "institutional directories" or "institutional digital archives" in which researchers deposit their publications to make them more visible and more accessible to all. Strong policies on Open Access have been decided by most of our universities as well as by the FRS-FNRS  the main funding agency in Belgium.
In this context, a draft Open Access Decree is currently submitted to the Parliament of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation and will be debated starting this week. It must provide a clear and coherent legal framework for researchers, standardized for all institutions of the Federation. It’s goal is to:
- promote the dissemination of research results fully or partly funded by public money in the French Community in order to favor the free circulation of knowledge and thus the blooming of innovation;
- allow, for each student, doctoral student, young researcher and even senior researcher, all over the world and especially in the most disadvantaged countries, whatever the means at his disposal, unimpeded access to the scientific documentation produced by other researchers;
- increase the visibility of researchers and of their work, a beneficial effect that is widely documented today;
- reinforce the research carried out in the French Community by giving it maximum visibility and to favor the societal extension of what is being discovered or invented with public financing coming fully or partly from the French Community.
The draft decree proposes that researchers funded in any way by the French Community of Belgium be required to file systematically and upon acceptance of publication, a copy of their scientific articles in an institutional digital archive.
It also asks to make free and free access to the full text of these articles, immediately or after an embargo, if required by contract with the publisher, but this embargo can not exceed 6 months for articles in STM (sciences , techniques, medicine) and 12 months in SSH (social sciences and humanities).
We, as researchers and citizens, consider that this free and open access to knowledge developed by researchers and paid for by the taxpayer is a priority. We hope that such work can be made accessible to all without barriers as quickly as possible. We therefore consider that the embargo durations proposed in the draft decree are already barriers to the principle of free access, which are already a concession and should not be extended in any way, since genuine free access should take place upon acceptance of the publication. The maximum embargo periods allowed by the Decree are also those recommended by the European Union and are already applicable in France in particular under the Law for a Digital Republic. We ardently hope that the Parliament of the French Community of Belgium, by approving this Decree, will offer a real opportunity for scientific research in the French Community to increase its visibility by breaking down the barriers and can thus participate even more in improving everyone's well-being. We count on you, our elected representatives, to defend our position and the common interest.
(See the text of the draft decree here: http://www.pfwb.be/le-travail-du-parlement/doc-et-pub/documents-parlementaires-et-decrets/documents/001591649)
 For a list of Open Access policies in Belgium: https://openaccess.be/open-access-in-belgium/policies-mandates-in-belgium