EU Open Source Policy: good analysis, missing concrete next steps

On Wednesday the EU Commission published its new Open Source Strategy. We are pleased that the Commission recognises the benefits of Free Software and the four freedoms to use, study, share and improve, but the commission lacks concrete targets and indicators to implement the strategy. That is too little!

Open science equally muddled

This muddled commitment to open is also evident in important science projects that the European Commission controls. For instance, the DestinE project (European Commission 2020, Vaughan 2020) aims to develop a high precision digital model of the Earth — termed a “digital twin” — to monitor and simulate interacting natural processes and human activities, as well as to test scenarios that advance climate protection and environmental restoration. In addition to acting as a workbench for evaluating various possible futures, this digital twin may also be able to investigate the enabling public policy measures.

And yet, despite the impact of this work on citizens lives and business prospects, the commitment to open science and open policy development appears to be non-existent. The best I found is a statement on “opening up access to public datasets” (European Commission 2020). But even that sentiment does not stand scrutiny: public datasets are already accessible by definition, surely?

I am appealing to the Commission to place open science as the heart of such endeavours. Not only will the science benefit. But it is also becoming increasingly unacceptable to rely on public policy analysis that cannot be repeated and extended by independent parties. And calls for transparency will only increase over time. So why does the Commission, as principal funder, not start out on the right path by requiring suitable open licenses on the code and data from the outset? We all stand to benefit.

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