Friday, February 15, 2013

FASTR and Slower?: Proposed Open Access Bill

Yesterday the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR) bill was introduced in Congress by U.S. Representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Mike Doyle (D-PA), and Kevin Yoder (R-KS) and the sponsors say the bill is designed to increase the openness, transparency, and accessibility of publicly funded research results. The bill would require public publication/access to all federally funded research to be provided if the federal agency has a research budget of more that $100million. From Rep Lofgren's press release:

Specifically, the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (Text:pdf) would:
  • Require federal departments and agencies with an annual extramural research budget of $100 million or more, whether funded totally or partially by a government department or agency, to submit an electronic copy of the final manuscript that has been accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.
  • Ensure that the manuscript is preserved in a stable digital repository maintained by that agency or in another suitable repository that permits free public access, interoperability, and long-term preservation.
  • Require that each taxpayer-funded manuscript be made available to the public online and without cost, no later than six months after the article has been published in a peer-reviewed journal.
  • Require agencies to examine whether introducing open licensing options for research papers they make publicly available as a result of the public access policy would promote productive reuse and computational analysis of those research papers.
An identical Senate counterpart of this legislation is also being introduced today by Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

The federal government spends over $37Billion on federally funded research with most of this money spent by Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Science Foundation and U.S. Department of Agriculture. According to Lofgren:
"FASTR represents a giant step forward in making sure that the crucial information contained in these articles can be freely accessed and fully used by all members of the public," said Heather Joseph, Executive Director of the Scholarly Publishing Academic Research Coalition (SPARC). "It has the potential to truly revolutionize the scientific research process."

This legislation would unlock unclassified research funded by agencies like the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Defense, the Department of Education, the Department of Energy, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Transportation, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Science Foundation.

The bill builds on the success of the first U.S. mandate for public access to the published results of publicly funded research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In 2008, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) implemented their public access policy. It is estimated that approximately 80,000 papers are published each year from NIH funds.
This is the fourth go-around for an open access bill but this one may have a better chance of getting to an eventual vote given the changing views on open access and therefore, more acceptance by members of Congress that this is something worth pursuing.

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