Escaping the Paywall: Taxpayer-funded research will be free

Open Access LogoOver the summer I wrote about a We the People petition asking the White House to mandate measures similar to the NIH Public Access Policy (in place since 2008)for more Federal agencies.  A quick review, the NIH PAP  has results from NIH-funded projects (eventually) published in open access journals and repositories.

That petition has gotten a response (from Dr. John Holdren, the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy)! One paragraph from Dr. Holdren’s response is particularly salient:

The logic behind enhanced public access is plain. We know that scientific research supported by the Federal Government spurs scientific breakthroughs and economic advances when research results are made available to innovators. Policies that mobilize these intellectual assets for re-use through broader access can accelerate scientific breakthroughs, increase innovation, and promote economic growth. That’s why the Obama Administration is committed to ensuring that the results of federally-funded scientific research are made available to and useful for the public, industry, and the scientific community.

But what does that actually do? The Office of Science and Technology Policy also issued a memo to the heads of federal agencies to the effect that those spending over $100 million on research & development should make the results of that research publicly available 12 months after publication (the standard embargo time).

Ah – democracy in action!

It’s not just about open access publication either – there are provisions regarding the “management and sharing of scientific data produced with Federal funding,” which I have a feeling may be the next version of the open access movement we see, if the 2012 Medical Library Association meeting is any indication.

Most of the coverage I’ve seen online is pretty positive regarding the measure – the Association of Research Libraries issued a press release supporting the action; the Huffington Post linked the move to Internet activist & programmer wunderkind Aaron Swartz; and the Chronicle of Education noted that even publishers were OK with the shift and that certain agencies, notable the National Science Foundation, had already rolled out timelines to implement open access publications. Now, not all of the coverage was entirely glowing – some argued that the measure doesn’t go far enough (full disclosure – that’s my alma mater there [Go Bears!] but I have no affiliation with the department or author). But all seem to agree that it is at least a series of steps in the right direction.

To top it all off, the House and Senate have recently introduced legislation (FASTR, or the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act) that would reduce that embargo period to 6 months! Our fearless open access soapbox librarian Jean recommends this site to follow FASTR’s developments in Congress.

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