White House OTSP creates Open Access policy for federal agencies

OTSP Director John Holdren talks to President Obama in this undated White House photo.

One day after we posted big news about dual Open Access bills in the US and Illinois Senates, the Office of Technology and Science Policy issued a policy memorandum that will essentially enact an Open Access policy similar to the NIH Public Access policy for all federal agencies with more than $100 million in their R&D budget. This policy will not only affect publications, but also the data resulting from funded research.

Many in the Open Access advocacy community are celebrating the announcement as proof of the success of the #OAMonday/Access2Research movement and the resulting “We the People” petition, which solicited a positive (if long-overdue) response from Holdren.

Researcher Joe Hourcle, on the RDAP listserv, has distilled the policy into these essential points:

  • Must give a plan in 6 months on how they’re going to improve public access to publications & data
  • Can have an embargo after publication (baseline is 12 months)
  • No charges for access to the article metadata
  • Grants can include costs for data management & access

The Dryad repository blog explores in a bit more detail exactly what this might mean for data sharing and publication.

It remains to be seen how this surprising and groundbreaking new policy will take effect.

Two new Open Access bills generating buzz

A bill not unlike the NIH Public Access policy has been introduced in the United States Congress, laying a framework for increased access to science and technology research conducted with publicly-funded support.

From Library Journal:

The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR) was introduced on February 14 in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. If passed, FASTR would require government agencies with annual extramural research expenditures of more than $100 million make electronic manuscripts of peer-reviewed journal articles based on their research freely available on the Internet within six months of publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

Major library advocacy organizations such as the ALA, ACRL, and SPARC (among others) have come out in support of the FASTR Act.

Commercial publishers’ response to the bill has, predictably, been cold. The American Association of Publishers (AAP) is arguing that the policy would be wasteful of taxpayers money, and that it would not serve the need of all scientific disciplines.

A day later, a more general bill that would mandate the creation of Open Access policies at public universities in Illinois was introduced to the Illinois State Legislature. Possible positive outcomes of this bill include:

  • Free online access to all research published at public universities and colleges in Illinois
  • Increased support for Open Access institutional repositories, which will inevitably become the infrastructure that supports the sharing and preservation of research created in Illinois
  • More awareness of, and support for, digital preservation at the university level

Areas for concern include:

  • The granting of “worldwide copyright license granted by the author to the public.” This provision will likely have faculty up in arms, as the bill calls for what is essentially a CC-BY license to be applied to all work produced by faculty–allowing others to use and share their work in nearly any way they see fit, even for commercial gain.
  • Blanket applicability to all disciplines even though there is more resistance to OA from arts and humanities scholars, who do not benefit from the practice in the same way that science researchers do.

Hopefully, at the very least these bills will both engender some much-needed debate in Congress about the mission of universities as creators of knowledge for the public good rather than profit.