Swiss scientific organisations have agreed to allow open access to their research information for all interested parties, free of charge.
The joint signing of the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities will help break down barriers for accessing scientific knowledge.
The declaration, launched in 2003, is the response from the science world to the new information-sharing opportunities offered by the Internet, a statement from the Swiss National Science Foundation said on Tuesday.
The National Science Foundation, along with four other organisations, is one of the signatories of the Berlin Declaration.
Open-access publishing allows readers to access, copy, and distribute research papers freely, subject to proper attribution of authorship.
In treating science as a public asset for researchers, the objective is to "return science to the scientists" and stimulate new research ideas.
"We want to open up our archives to a wider public because as taxpayers, they fund our work," Andreas Dick of the National Science Foundation told swissinfo.
"Researchers will put whatever they have published online, making it easily available and fast-tracking the way from the journal to the public," he added.
The Conference of Swiss University Libraries has already been canvassing for the widespread signing of the declaration for some time, mainly on cost-saving grounds.
Open-access systems will offer an alternative to the rapid increase in prices for subscriptions to commercial magazines from scientific publishers. In all, around 2.5 million articles are published every year in 24,000 scientific magazines.
"There are small specialised scientific journals that cost thousands and some universities just can't afford them. Open access should force journals to publish online sooner," Dick explained.
According to the Berlin Declaration, establishing open access requires the active commitment of every individual producer of scientific knowledge and holder of cultural heritage.
Open access contributions include original scientific research results, raw data and metadata, source materials, digital representations of pictorial and graphical materials and scholarly multimedia material.
In October 2003, the Berlin Declaration issued an open invitation to governments, universities, research institutions, funding agencies, foundations, libraries, museums, archives, learned societies and professional associations to sign up to the principle of open access.
The following Swiss parties have signed the Berlin Declaration:
The Rectors' Conference of the Swiss Universities (CRUS)
Conference of the Swiss Universities of Applied Sciences (KFH)
Swiss Conference of Schools for Teacher Education (SKPH)
Council of the Swiss Scientific Academies (CASS)
Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF)
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