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Scientists from all major Dutch universities officially launched a website on Tuesday where all their research material can be accessed for free. Interested parties can get hold of a total of 47,000 digital documents from 16 institutions the Digital Academic Repositories. No other nation in the world offers such easy access to its complete academic research output in digital form, the researchers claim. Obviously, commercial publishers are not amused.

DAREnet was already launched about a year ago, but for demonstration purposes only. The €2m DARE programme - a joint initiative by all the Dutch universities, the National Library of the Netherlands, the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) and the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) - harvests all digital available material from local repositories, making it fully searchable. Aside from bibliographical information, the content can be full text, or even audio and video files.

The initiative is clearly not welcomed by commercial scientific publishers such as Elsevier Science. Increasingly, universities complain about the high cost of scientific journals and many argue that the research results should be distributed freely or at significantly less cost to library subscribers.

In Hungary, financier and philanthropist George Soros is also backing a new effort to provide free and unrestricted access to scientific and other academic literature. ®

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