The White House issued a breakthrough policy memorandum on February 22, 2013 requiring federal agencies to create plans for providing the public with free online access to the published research they fund.
The directive calls on federal agencies with annual research and development budgets of $100 million or more to open up online access to both journal articles and research data resulting from public funding. Free access to the articles is to be available within 12 months from publication in peer-reviewed journals.
The federal government sponsors research with billions of dollars every year in order to bolster knowledge generation and encourage innovation. Providing free online access to the research is a veritable way to reap the benefits of taxpayers’ investments.
SPARC, a non-profit organization that has been working to broaden public access to scholarly research, notes that free access to the Human Genome Project has enabled scientists around the globe to use the data for groundbreaking projects and has developed an estimated economic impact of almost $800 billion. As Heather Joseph from SPARC says, “The Directive will accelerate scientific discovery, improve education, and empower entrepreneurs to translate research into commercial ventures and jobs. It’s good for our nation, our economy, and our future.”
The directive has been applauded with enthusiasm by academics, library associations, and businesses alike. Details of the policy memorandum are available here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2013/02/22/expanding-public-access-results-federally-funded-research
A parallel development on the open access front is the bipartisan Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), which was introduced in Congress on Feb. 14, 2013 with a view to enable free online access to and lawful digital reuse of journal articles emanating from publicly funded research.
The bill would require federal agencies with annual extramural research expenditures of $100 million or more to mandate that the peer-reviewed manuscripts of journal articles resulting from publicly funded research be made freely available online within six months after the articles are published in scholarly journals. The free public access would maximize the dissemination of the research findings, encourage constructive reuse of the articles, and augment the return on public financing of research.
FASTR is important to higher education because it:
- enhances the visibility and recognition of publicly funded research at different institutions
- strengthens knowledge sharing through unfettered access to numerous peer-reviewed research articles
- helps increase the impact of the research
- facilitates examination of research conducted at institutions that compete for federal funding;
- enables computational analysis, text mining, data mining, and other innovative reuse of the research articles for the purpose of scholarship advancement
- ensures long-term preservation of the research articles in designated digital archives
More information about FASTR is available from these resources:
- The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research (FASTR) Act of 2013: http://www.wyden.senate.gov/download/fastr-act
- SPARC FAQ for the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR): http://www.arl.org/sparc/resources/sparc-faq-for-the-fair-access-to-science-and-techn.shtml
- UK Libraries Open Access Research Guide: http://libguides.uky.edu/content.php?pid=331920&sid=3581831
Peter Suber, an eminent scholar and commentator on open access, has offered an analysis of how the White House’s directive and FASTR complement each other. You can find his comments here: https://plus.google.com/109377556796183035206/posts/8hzviMJeVHJ