Open Access to Taxpayer-Funded Research

According to a White House webpage, John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, has

… issued a memorandum today to Federal agencies that directs those with more than $100 million in research and development expenditures to develop plans to make the results of federally-funded research publicly available free of charge within 12 months after original publication.

This is already true for research funded by the National Institute of Health. For years some of us have been pushing for the National Science Foundation and other agencies to do the same thing. Elsevier and other companies fought against it, even trying to pass a law to stop it…. but a petition to the White House seems to have had an effect!

In response to this petition, Holdren now says:

while this new policy call does not insist that every agency copy the NIH approach exactly, it does ensure that similar policies will appear across government.

If this really happens, this will be very big news. So let’s fight to make sure this initiative doesn’t get watered down or undermined by the bad guys! The quickest easiest thing is to talk to the Office of Science and Technology Policy, either by phone or email, as explained here. A phone call counts more than an email.

One great thing about Holdren’s new memo is that it requires open access to experimental data, not just papers.

And one sad thing is that it only applies to federally funded research in the sciences, not the humanities. It does not apply to the National Endowment for the Humanities. Done well, research in the humanities can be just as important as scientific research… since most of our problems involve humans.

11 Responses to Open Access to Taxpayer-Funded Research

  1. Great!
    Though I wish somehow it could be open only to US citizens. No reason the Chinese, who hack into so many of our properties, should benefit.

  2. A welcome development, indeed! Thank you for sharing–it is a victory for the open-access movement! Hopefully, this trend continues where it is needed and deemed plausible for all parties involved.

  3. John Baez says:

    Open access guru Peter Suber writes:

    The Obama White House today directed federal agencies to develop open-access policies within the next six months. The directive comes from John Holdren, President Obama’s chief Science Advisor.

    White House announcement:

    http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2013/02/22/expanding-public-access-results-federally-funded-research

    Directive itself:

    http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/ostp_public_access_memo_2013.pdf

    This is big. It’s big in its own right, and even bigger when put together with FASTR , the bipartisan OA bill introduced into both houses of Congress just eight days ago. We now have OA mandates coming from both the executive and legislative branches of government.

    The two approaches complement one another. FASTR does not make the White House directive unnecessary. FASTR may never be adopted. And if it is adopted, it will be after some time for study, education, lobbying, amendment, negotiation, and debate. By contrast, the White House directive takes effect today. The wheels are already turning. Compared to this executive action, FASTR is slower. (Thanks to Becky Cremona for this good line.)

    Similarly, the White House directive does not make FASTR unnecessary. On the contrary, we need legislation to codify federal OA policies. The next president could rescind today’s White House directive, but could not rescind legislation. (One lesson: Don’t let up on efforts to persuade Congress to pass FASTR.)

    The White House directive and FASTR pull in the same general direction, but they are not identical. Here are the key points of similarity and difference:

    • Both ask a wide range of federal funding agencies to require OA for the results of the research they fund. But the new directive applies to more agencies. FASTR covers all the agencies spending at least $100 million/year funding extramural research. The directive covers all the agencies spending at least $100 million/year funding extramural research or development. FASTR applies to about 11 agencies and the directive to about 19. Among the agencies omitted by FASTR but covered by the directive are USAid and the Smithsonian Institution.

    • Both put a limit on permissible embargoes, but the directive allows longer embargoes. FASTR caps embargos at six months, and the directive caps them at 12 months. Under the directive, agencies may ask White House permission to allow even longer embargoes, but they must submit data to support their requests.

    • Both ask agencies to develop their own policies within certain guidelines. FASTR gives them a year to do so (starting when FASTR is adopted) and the directive gives them half a year to do so (starting today).

    If FASTR is eventually adopted, then all the FASTR-covered agencies will already have OA policies under today’s directive. Some agencies may have to revise their policies to comply with FASTR guidelines, for example, reducing permissible embargoes to a maximum of six months or tweaking their libre or open-licensing requirements.

    • FASTR is silent on data, but the White House directive requires OA for articles (Section 3) and OA for data (Section 4).

    • Both FASTR and the directive are solid green mandates, requiring deposit in an OA repository (green OA) and remaining silent about publishing in OA journals (gold OA). In that sense, both initiatives build on the successful green OA mandate at the NIH, and reject the gold-favoring approach adopted by the Research Councils UK.

    • Both FASTR and the directive require agency policies to permit libre OA or to license repository deposits for reuse. They use different language to describe the desired type of freedom, and do not specify individual licenses.

    The Obama White House has twice collected public comments on federal OA policy. One public consultation ended in January 2010 and the other ended in January 2012. The new directive builds on those comments, which overwhelmingly supported OA. Here are the two sets of comments received:

    http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2010/03/08/public-access-policy-update

    http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2012/01/30/your-comments-access-federally-funded-scientific-research-results

    The White House was also pressured by a May 2012 “We the people” petition that only needed 25k signatures in the first 30 days to elicit an official response. It received that many in 14 days, and today has 65,700+ signatures. While we reached the response threshold eight months ago, I think it’s fair to say that today’s response is what we were waiting for.

    http://wh.gov/6TH

    Today’s directive is accompanied by a separate, direct response to the petition:

    https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/response/increasing-public-access-results-scientific-research

    This is another in a series of blog posts on FASTR and other federal actions to support OA to federally-funded research. I’ll pull the series of posts together for an article in the March issue of the SPARC Open Access Newsletter.

    • tmk says:

      The battle is not yet won: glimmers of rational thought in Washington have a rather unfortunate habit of failing to result in tangible action. How do we (reasonably civilly) keep the pressure on?

    • domenico says:

      This no-cost intelligent choice can increase the results of the research in medical research (the result is save lives), in technological research (progress of the humanity).
      I hope that other country will follow the example.

      Saluti

      DOmenico

  4. Arrow says:

    Great news. I’ve hit paywalls too many times to count.

  5. John Baez says:

    One great thing about Holdren’s new memo is that it requires open access to experimental data, not just papers.

    And one sad thing is that it only applies to federally funded research in the sciences, not the humanities. It does not apply to the National Endowment for the Humanities. Done well, research in the humanities can be just as important as scientific research… since most of our problems involve humans. And in all cases, US citizens deserve to see the research they’ve paid for!

  6. I’m actually working on a post about open access to research. This will be a great addition to that, a link to this post will naturally be included. :-)

    One of the other benefits that can come of something like this is the knowledge gained by the general public. When I wrote an articles on the dangers of some pseudo-science medicine, I found it very difficult to get access to simple studies that would prove my point directly. If the American public can access proper scientific knowledge, we could hopefully see a more educated public. Here’s hoping anyway.

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