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Editors’ Choice: The State of Public Access in the United States

Today, I’m going to provide a brief update on federal initiatives targeted toward making federally funded research articles and data publicly accessible.

There have been four primary federal actions in the last 12-18 months addressing public access to federally funded research.

The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act was introduced in both the House and the Senate in February 2013. FASTR is the successor to the Federal Research Public Access Act or FRPAA, which had been introduced in Congress in 2006, 2009 and 2012 but never came up for a vote.  Like FRPAA, FASTR applies to federal agencies who spend at least $100 million on extramural research, so it applies to agencies such as the Departments of Agriculture, Education and Transportation as well as the EPA and the National Science Foundation.  Also similarly, FASTR requires deposit of the final version of an author’s peer reviewed manuscript in an open access repository no later than 6 months after publication. Works by government employed researchers are to be available open access immediately. FASTR does include a few provisions that did not occur in the prior versions of FRPAA. First, FASTR contains a provision on coordinating agency policies. This requirement of coordination will serve to reduce the burden on universities that need to comply with procedures at more than one of the covered agencies. FASTR also includes a licensing and formatting provision to ensure that research results are machine readable and subject to computational analysis. Finally, FASTR requires agencies to include in annual reports a statement on whether the terms of use applicable to the deposited papers has been effective in enabling reuse and computational analysis.

A week after the introduction of FASTR, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy issued a directive requiring agencies with over $100 million dollars in extramural research expenditures to make articles AND data publicly available no later than 12 months after publication.

Then, 11 months later, the government essentially codified into law the directive of the OSTP memo for the agencies of the Departments of Labor, Health & Human Services and Education by requiring them through the 2014 spending bill to make research articles funded by those agencies publicly accessible within 12 months after publication.

Finally, in March of this year, a bill was introduced in the House entitled the Frontiers in Innovation, Research Science and Technology Act or FIRST and in section 303 of that bill public access to federally funded research articles is required no more than 24 months after publication, with agencies also being granted the option by policy to extend that embargo by an additional 12 months. The language of the act also mentions access to data within 60 days of the accompanying article’s publication but does not specify the mechanisms or parameters for accessibility or use of the data.

So what is the current status of these initiatives – and what steps are outlined therein for their implementation if passed or approved.

Read Full Post Here.

This content was selected for Digital Humanities Now by Editor-in-Chief Amanda Morton based on nominations by Editors-at-Large: Lisa Munro, Calin Murgu, Adriana Bastarrachea, Josh Herron, and Danuta Sierhuis