Open Science Revolt Occupies Congress

February 9, 2012

The open-science revolt, catalyzed just a few weeks ago as a reaction to publisher Elsevier’s backing of a clumsy bill introduced to the U.S. .  Congress, now has a champion in that Congress, Representative Mike Doyle, a Democrat of Pennsylvania, who has introduced legislation to encourage open access to government-sponsored science. It’s notable that this bill, the Federal Research Public Access Act, seems to have bipartisan support in both houses, including from some, such as Texas’s Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson, who aren’t exactly of the the radical left. From Doyle’s office:

U.S. Representative Mike Doyle (D-PA) today introduced bipartisan legislation that directs federal agencies to encourage open public access to federally funded scientific research.

“Americans have the right to see the results of research funded with taxpayer dollars,” Congressman Doyle said in introducing the Federal Research Public Access Act.  “Yet such research too often gets locked away behind a pay-wall, forcing those who want to learn from it to pay expensive subscription fees for access.”

“The Federal Research Public Access Act will encourage broader collaboration among scholars in the scientific community by permitting widespread dissemination of research findings.  Promoting greater collaboration will inevitably lead to more innovative research outcomes and more effective solutions in the fields of biomedicine, energy, education, and health care.”

The Federal Research Public Access Act would require federal agencies with an extramural research budget of $100 million or more to make federally-funded research available for free online access by the general public, no later than six months after publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

The Federal Research Public Access Act 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.

Original sponsors of the Federal Research Public Access Act are Reps. Kevin Yoder (R-KS) and Wm. Lacy Clay (D-MO).  Identical legislation is also being introduced in the U.S. Senate today by Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX).

Echoing similar aims, the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) recently issued a Request for Information and collected recommendations on approaches to ensure broad public access to federally-funded scientific research.

Congressman Doyle introduced similar legislation in the 111th Congress, and he has been working since 2006 to ensure that taxpayers have access to the research they’ve paid for.

Click here to read the Federal Research Public Access Act.

I’ve not had time to read the bill myself (though it’s only 7 pages), but Peter Suber, who’s been tracking this issue closely, writes at Berkman that this bill expands the effect of existing NIH Public Access Policy, which was the open-access bill that Elsevier and the Research Works Act sought to eliminate. In short, it makes more federally funded research available to all eyes and makes it available sooner (minimum 6 months instead of 12).  Key provisions of the proposed Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA):

  • strengthens the OA mandate at the NIH by reducing the maximum embargo period from 12 months to six months, and extends the strengthened policy to all the major agencies of the federal government.
  • doesn’t merely reduce the maximum embargo to six months, but requires OA “as soon as practicable” after publication (Section 4.b.4), but no later than six months after publication.
  • asks agencies to come up with their own policies within the general guidelines laid down in the bill. It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution and agencies are free to differ on the details. They will have one year from the bill’s passage to develop their policies (4.a)
  • would mandate open access for more research literature than any other policy ever adopted.

As Suber explains, FRPAA  has been offered before. But offered amid the fracas over RWA and Elsevier’s support of it, along with the defeat of the SOPA and PIPA bills, FRPAA is likely to get more attention and possibly more push this year – one more sign that the brushfire is spreading.

This thing is moving awfully fast, and we won’t know for a while whether this is a bottle rocket or a space program. To keep up, I recommend:

On the web:

And don’t miss this stellar post (and great convo in the comments) from Imperial College biophysicistStephen Curry.

On Twitter:

Thanks to York University librarian John Dupuis for heads-up on this.

If you know of other must-follow sources, please add them in the comments. I’ll try to work them into this list here as I can.