Expanding Public Access to Research Results

See below for important updates to this posting.

An impressive number of open access initiatives have recently come from the federal and California government. These efforts have the potential to significantly broaden public access to government-funded research publications. On February 13, 2013, the Fair Access to Science & Technology Act (FASTR) was introduced with bipartisan support in both the U.S. House of Representatives (H.R. 708) and Senate (S. 350). FASTR would require federal agencies with an annual extramural research budget of at least $100 million to provide free online access to published articles resulting from the funds, no later than six months after publication. Affected agencies include (among others) the Department of Health and Human Services (including the NIH), the National Science Foundation, NASA, and the Department of Education.

FASTR is the successor to the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA), which did not make it out of committee in the 112th Congress (2012). UCSF scientists are familiar with the NIH Public Access Policy, which stipulates public access no later than twelve months after publication. FASTR would not only shorten that period to six months, but it also stipulates that the article versions deposited in repositories be distributed “in formats and under terms that enable productive reuse, including computational analysis by state-of-the-art technologies.” (bill, 4.b.5)  This type of usage addresses current research needs beyond simply reading articles to mine large amounts of data.

Then, on February 22, the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy (OSTP) directed federal agencies with at least $100 million in research & development expenditures to develop plans to make the results of federally-funded research publicly available, free of charge, within 12 months after original publication. Obama’s directive was a response, in part, to a We the People petition signed by over 65,000 people asking the government to make all publicly funded research results free.

While having FASTR and the Obama directive at the same time might seem duplicative, the two efforts complement and strengthen each other. If FASTR passes, it would become the law and could not be overturned as could a future presidential directive.  It would reduce the public access embargo period from 12 to six months. The White House directive also specifies that data associated with an article must be made open access. Both efforts call for green open access, whereby authors publish in the journal of their choosing and then deposit a final version of their article in an open access repository. These U.S. initiatives contrast with the United Kingdom’s approach decided by the Research Councils UK, mandating paid, immediate (gold) open access to funded research.

At the same time, California Assemblyman Brian Nestande introduced a similar measure for state-funded research publications to be made open access within six months after publication. The California Taxpayer Access to Publicly Funded Research Act (AB-609) would mandate public access to articles funded through California state agencies and universities, and through the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM). The California State Library would host the articles.

Will FASTR and the California Act pass? Nobody knows for sure, though legislator and public support for such legislation continues to increase.  Meanwhile, the American Association of Publishers (AAP) has predictably come out against FASTR.  What’s certain is that the Obama initiative requires a plan to be in place by August 2013. Some say that the White House hasn’t gone far enough to broaden access, however it is difficult to argue against it being progress toward opening access to research publications.

Voice your opinion on FASTR and the California Access to Publicly Funded Research Act.

Update, April 12, 2013: California bill AB-609 (California Access to Publicly Funded Research Act) will have its first hearing on April 17. To voice your opinion on this bill, contact Assemblyman Nestande’s staff. For more information, contact Anneliese at the Library.

Update, April 16, 2013: The hearing for CA AB-609 has been moved to May 1st at Assemblyman Nestande’s request to allow for supporters to be present at the hearing by the Assembly Accountability & Administrative Review Committee. The University of California Office of the President (UCOP) requested two amendments to the bill, which the author has agreed to. See the UC letter of support.

Update, May 14, 2013: CA AB-609 cleared the hearing by the Accountability & Administrative Review Committee on May 1 and is headed for review by the Appropriations Committee. The hearing received seven votes in favor and three against the bill. See a summary here. It’s not too late to provide feedback to the CA Assembly.

Update, May 30, 2013: CA AB-609 cleared the Appropriations Committee on May 21 and passed a vote by the House Assembly today, with 50 votes for, 3 against. The Act will be heard by the Senate in late June/July. Meanwhile, a similar act is picking up momentum in New York.

Update, June 26, 2013: CA AB-609 is now with the Government Oversight (GO) Committee. A June 25 vote, 5-0 in favor, did not have a quorum. Another hearing by GO may happen this session. The bill has been granted reconsideration, meaning that it does not have to go through the consideration process again with the Assembly if not heard this session.

Update, August 29, 2013: CA AB-609 remains with the GO Committee. Since it has been granted reconsideration, action on the bill will resume when the California State Senate begins its next session in January 2014. For more information go here.

About Anneliese

Assistant Director for Scholarly Communications & Collections
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