legislation

Proposed U.S. law would weaken and postpone public access to publicly funded research

Timothy Vollmer, March 12th, 2014

This week the U.S. House Representatives introduced H.R. 4186, the Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science and Technology Act of 2014 (FIRST Act). The stated goal of the proposed law — “to provide for investment in innovation through scientific research and development, [and] to improve the competitiveness of the United States — is worthy and well received. But part of the bill (Section 303) is detrimental to both existing and proposed public access policies in the United States.

According to SPARC:

Section 303 of the bill would undercut the ability of federal agencies to effectively implement the widely supported White House Directive on Public Access to the Results of Federally Funded Research and undermine the successful public access program pioneered by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) – recently expanded through the FY14 Omnibus Appropriations Act to include the Departments Labor, Education and Health and Human Services. Adoption of Section 303 would be a step backward from existing federal policy in the directive, and put the U.S. at a severe disadvantage among our global competitors.

The White House Directive, NIH Public Access Policy, Omnibus Appropriations Act, and the proposed Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR) all contain similar provisions to ensure public access to publicly funded research after a relatively short embargo (6-12 months). These policies make sure that articles created and published as a result of federal funding are deposited in a repository for access and preservation purposes. In addition, the policies provide for a reasonable process and timeline for agencies to development a plan to comply with the public access requirements.

The FIRST Act would conflict with each of these practices. Instead, if enacted it would permit agencies that must comply with the law to:

  • Extend embargoes to federally funded research articles to up to 3 years after initial publication, thus drastically increasing the time before the public has free public access to this research. We’ve said before that the public should be granted immediate access to the content of peer-reviewed scholarly publications resulting from federally funded research. Immediate access is the ideal method to optimize the scientific and commercial utility of the information contained in the articles.
  • Fulfill access requirements by providing a link to a publisher’s site. However, this jeopardizes long-term access and preservation of publicly-funded research in the absence of a requirement that those links be permanently preserved. A better outcome would be to ensure that a copy is deposited in a federally-controlled repository.
  • Spend up to 18 additional months to develop plans to comply with the conditions of the law, thus further delaying the plans that are already being organized by federal agencies under the White House Directive and Omnibus Appropriations Act.

This bill is scheduled to be marked up in the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology tomorrow, March 13.

But there are better alternatives, both in existing policy (e.g. White House Directive), and in potential legislation (e.g. FASTR). Here’s what you can do right now:

  • Send a letter to members of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee opposing Section 303 of the FIRST Act.
  • Use the SPARC action center to customize and send letters directly to your legislators. Tweet your opposition to Section 303 of the FIRST Act, or post about the bill on Facebook.
  • Write a letter to the editor or an op-ed for your local or campus newspaper. You can write directly to them or by using the SPARC legislative action center.
  • Share this post with your colleagues, labs, friends and family.
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Congress passes spending bill requiring free access to publicly funded research

Timothy Vollmer, January 16th, 2014

agencylogos

Update: The bill was signed by President Obama January 17, 2014.

Both the U.S. House of Representative and Senate have passed the 2014 omnibus appropriations legislation (2.9 MB PDF). President Obama is expected to sign the bill shortly.

What’s so special about this legislation? Federal agencies with research budgets of at least $100 million per year will be required provide the public with free online access to scholarly articles generated with federal funds no later than 12 months after publication in a peer-reviewed journal. The agencies affected by the public access provision of the appropriations bill include the Department of Labor, Department of Education, and Department of Health and Human Services (which includes research-intensive sub-agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, Food and Drug Administration, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

According to SPARC, the bill “ensure[s] that $31 billion of the total $60 billion annual U.S. investment in taxpayer-funded research is now openly accessible.”

The inclusion of the public access provision builds upon existing initiatives, such as the NIH Public Access Policy. And it echoes the more recent push for public access to publicly funded research advocated through the introduction of the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR) and the White House directive. But with FASTR tabled in Congress last year and the federal agencies dragging their feet on complying with Obama’s public access directive (plans were due in August 2013), the passage of the 2014 spending legislation is a welcome measure for increasing access to publicly funded research.

SPARC thinks the language in the bill could be strengthened by adopting a shorter embargo period (e.g. six months), which would benefit the public without harming journal publishers. In addition, they suggest that research articles be shared via a central repository similar to PubMed Central and incorporate provisions to ensure the ability to conduct text and data mining on the entire corpus of federally-funded articles. Creative Commons and other groups have also communicated the need for not only free public access, but also access whereby publicly funded research is made available under open licenses.

Open Access icon was created by Duke Innovation Co-Lab and in the public domain.
U.S. Department of Education seal is in the public domain.
U.S. Department of Labor seal is in the public domain.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services seal is in the public domain.

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California public access bill moves to Assembly floor vote

Timothy Vollmer, May 28th, 2013

ab609_468x60~s600x600

After passing through the Assembly Appropriations Committee last week (with bipartisan support), California’s Taxpayer Access to Publicly Funded Research Act (AB 609) will now reach the Assembly floor for a vote this week. If the proposed bill passes the Assembly, it will move to the California State Senate.

To recap, AB 609 would require that the final peer-reviewed manuscript of research funded through California tax dollars be made publicly available within 12 months of publication. If passed, AB 609 would be the first state-level bill requiring free public access to publicly funded research.

The Association of American Publishes attempted to scuttle the bill by sending a letter filled with inaccurate, misleading information. However, public access advocates made their voices heard to appropriations committee members, again correcting the FUD spread by entrenched publishing interests.

If you’re a California resident, you can contact your Assembly member now to ask that they support AB 609.

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California Pushes for Public Access to Taxpayer Funded Research

Timothy Vollmer, April 25th, 2013

ca oa

As we mentioned last week, California has introduced AB 609, the California Taxpayer Access to Publicly Funded Research Act. The bill, sponsored by Assembly Member Brian Nestande, would require that research articles funded through California tax dollars be made available online for free no later than 12 months after publication in a peer-reviewed journal. A letter from the University of California may have prompted the Assembly to modify the text of the draft bill to extend the embargo to 12 months (instead of six), and to include a provision exempting the University of California and California State University from the state agencies that must comply with the legislation, if enacted.

A group of organizations (including Creative Commons) sent a letter to Assembly Member Nestande thanking him for introducing the bill. The letter urged the Assembly to considering strengthening the proposed law by including reuse rights language, such as through the adoption of open licenses:

We encourage you to consider strengthening this legislation by including a provision to ensure that manuscripts reporting on state-funded research be made fully usable by the public. To fully unlock the value of the information contained in these digital articles, they should be made available in formats and under licensing terms that permit users to read, downloaded, search, compute on, data mine or analyze for any lawful purpose.

It also asked for the original 6 month embargo to be reinstated:

Additionally, while we would strongly prefer that these articles be made available to the public immediately upon publication, we would support the inclusion of an embargo period as originally proposed of no longer than six months.

A hearing in the Committee on Accountability and Administrative Review is scheduled for May 1 in Sacramento.

California residents can support the legislation by sending a message to representatives at the Alliance for Taxpayer Access site. More information on the bill is available on the SPARC website.

California icon by Christopher Scott, from the Noun Project, under CC BY.
Unlock icon by J. Ali, from the Noun Project, Public Domain.

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U.S. States considering public access policies

Timothy Vollmer, April 17th, 2013

oa state seals

With the introduction at the federal level of both the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR) and the White House public access directive, several states have begun to think about supporting public access to publicly funded research. Like the proposed federal legislation and White House policy, the state-level bills aim to support the notion that the taxpaying public should have access to the research it funds. The Illinois legislation is particularly interesting in that it has included a reuse rights provision whereby the articles developed as a result of state funds would be shared under an open license such as CC BY.

California

Notwithstanding any other law, each state agency that provides funding in the form of a research grant to a grantee for direct research shall develop a public access policy that shall do the following:

(1) Include a requirement that electronic versions of the author’s final manuscripts, or a link to an electronic version of the author’s final manuscript in an open access digital repository of original research papers that have been accepted for publication in peer-reviewed journals and result from research supported from state agency funding, be submitted to the funding state agency and the California State Library.

(2) Provide free online public access to such final peer-reviewed manuscripts or published versions as soon as practicable, but not later than six months after publication in peer-reviewed journals. [...]

New York

Each agency that provides funding for direct research shall develop a public access policy that shall:

(i) Include a requirement that electronic versions of the author’s final manuscripts of original research papers that have been accepted for publication in peer-reviewed journals and result from research supported from funding by the state of New York, be submitted to such funding agency;

(ii) Provide free online public access to such final peer-reviewed manuscripts or published versions as soon as practicable but not later than six months after publication in peer-reviewed journals; [...]

Illinios

(a) No later than 12 months after the effective date of this Act, each public institution of higher education shall develop an open access to research articles policy.

(b) All public institutions of higher education shall develop policies that provide for the following:

(1) the submission, by all faculty employed by the public institution of higher education, to the employing institution (or to an institution designated by the employing institution) of an electronic version of the author’s final manuscript of original research papers upon acceptance by a scholarly research journal, including peer-reviewed journals and related publications used by researchers to disseminate the results of their institution-affiliated research; [...]

(4) free online public access to the final peer-reviewed manuscripts or published versions immediately upon publication in a peer-reviewed journal;

(5) an irrevocable, worldwide copyright license granted by the author to the public that permits any use of an article on condition that the author and original publisher are attributed as such and that any such attribution is not made in a way that implies endorsement of the use by the author or original publisher. [...]

New York state seal is in the public domain.

California state seal licensed under CC BY-SA.

Illinois state seal is in the public domain.

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FASTR introduced in U.S. Congress to drastically expand public access to federally funded research

Timothy Vollmer, February 14th, 2013

Today marks an historic step forward for public access to publicly funded research in the United States. The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR) was introduced in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. FASTR requires federal agencies with annual extramural research budgets of $100 million or more to provide the public with online access to the research articles stemming from that funded research no later than six months after publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

If passed, the legislation would extend the current NIH Public Access Policy (with a shorter embargo) to other US federal agencies, such as the Department of Agriculture, Department of Energy, NASA, the National Science Foundation, and others.

The bill text is available here. The legislation was introduced with bi-partisan support in both the House and Senate. Sponsors include Sens. Cornyn (R-TX) and Wyden (D-OR), and Reps. Doyle (D-PA), Yoder (R-KS), and Lofgren (D-CA).

Creative Commons has supported policies aligned with the practice of making taxpayer funded research available free online and ideally under an open license that communicates broad downstream use rights, such as CC BY. While FASTR – like the NIH Public Access Policy before it – does not directly require the application of open licenses to the scientific research outputs funded with federal tax dollars, it represents a key next step toward increasing the usefulness of public access to research.

Specifically, FASTR includes provisions that move the ball down the field toward better communicating reuse rights. Peter Suber notes,

  • FASTR includes a new “finding” in its preamble (2.3): “the United States has a substantial interest in maximizing the impact and utility of the research it funds by enabling a wide range of reuses of the peer-reviewed literature that reports the results of such research, including by enabling computational analysis by state-of-the-art technologies.”
  • FASTR includes a formatting and licensing provision (4.b.5): the versions deposited in repositories and made OA shall be distributed “in formats and under terms that enable productive reuse, including computational analysis by state-of-the-art technologies.”
  • FASTR requires that the annual report from each covered agency include a statement from the agency on “whether the terms of use applicable to such research papers are effective in enabling productive reuse and computational analysis by state-of-the-art technologies” (4.f.2.B.i) and the results of the agency’s “examination of whether such research papers should include a royalty-free copyright license that is available to the public and that permits the reuse of those research papers, on the condition that attribution is given to the author or authors of the research and any others designated by the copyright owner” (4.f.2.B.ii).

In addition to making articles free to access and read after a six-month publishing embargo, these new provisions make a significant impact in pushing federal agencies to ensure that the research they fund is available and useful for new research techniques like text/data mining.

SPARC has issued an action alert, and there are several specific things you can do to support of FASTR. Today marks the 11th anniversary of the Budapest Open Access Initiative, and you can voice your support that the public needs and deserves access to the research it paid for and upon which scientific advancement and education depends.

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São Paulo Legislative Assembly Passes OER Bill

Timothy Vollmer, December 21st, 2012

UPDATE: As of 15 February 2013 this bill has been vetoed by the Governor of the State of Sao Paulo.

Last year we wrote about the introduction of an OER bill in Brazil. Yesterday, the State of São Paulo approved PL 989/2011, which establishes a policy whereby educational resources developed or purchased with government funds must be made freely available to the public under an open copyright license. The Governor must sign the bill for it to become law. You can view the bill text (Portuguese) linked from the State Assembly website.

State-funded educational materials must be made available on the web or on a government portal. They must be licensed for free use, including copying, distribution, download and creation of derivative works, provided that the author retains attribution, the materials are used non-commercially, and the materials are licensed under the same license as the original. Essentially, the legislation language suggests a CC BY-NC-SA license, even if not specifically stated.

Congratulations to the State of São Paulo for passing this law. We’ve seen similar policies enacted in Poland, Canada, and the United States. PL 989/2011 will set a powerful positive precedent for other countries to follow, and São Paulo will be contributing to the worldwide movement to create a shared commons of high-quality Open Educational Resources.

For more information on these developments see the Recursos Educacionais Abertos site.

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Act now to support public access to federally funded research

Timothy Vollmer, February 14th, 2012

Last week the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA) was reintroduced with bipartisan support in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate. According to SPARC, the bill would “require federal agencies to provide the public with online access to articles reporting on the results of the United States’ $60 billion in publicly funded research no later than six months after publication in a peer-reviewed journal.” If passed, the legislation would extend the current NIH Public Access Policy (with a shorter embargo) to other US government-funded research, including agencies such as the Department of Agriculture, Department of Energy, NASA, the National Science Foundation, and others. FRPAA was first introduced in 2006.

Unlike the Research Works Act, FRPAA would ensure that the public has access to the important scientific and scholarly research that it pays for. Creative Commons recently wrote to the White House asking that taxpayer funded research be made available online to the public immediately, free-of-cost, and ideally under an open license that communicates broad downstream use rights, such as CC BY. While FRPAA–like the NIH Public Access Policy before it–does not require the application of open licenses to the scientific research outputs funded with federal tax dollars, it is a crucial step toward increasing public access to research.

SPARC has issued an action alert, and there are several specific actions you can take in support of FRPAA. On this 10th anniversary of the Budapest Open Access Initiative, please voice your support that the public needs and deserves access to the research it paid for and upon which its education depends.

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Stop U.S. legislation that would block public access to publicly funded research

Timothy Vollmer, January 6th, 2012

In December 2011 the U.S. House of Representatives introduced The Research Works Act (H.R.3699), a bill that will ban public access to publicly funded research. SPARC says, “Essentially, the bill seeks to prohibit federal agencies from conditioning their grants to require that articles reporting on publicly funded research be made accessible to the public online.” The bill was introduced by Reps. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY). The sponsorship by Issa is odd considering his strong support for OPEN Act, the tolerable alternative to the SOPA/PIPA legislation. The bill stands in stark contrast to OSTP’s recent request for ideas about how the U.S. government can support public access to federally funded research articles and digital data (note: you can still submit comments until January 12 to the OSTP call). One of the primary proponents of the The Research Works Act is The Association of American Publishers, who describe the bill in a press release:

The Research Works Act will prohibit federal agencies from unauthorized free public dissemination of journal articles that report on research which, to some degree, has been federally-funded but is produced and published by private sector publishers receiving no such funding. It would also prevent non-government authors from being required to agree to such free distribution of these works. Additionally, it would preempt federal agencies’ planned funding, development and back-office administration of their own electronic repositories for such works, which would duplicate existing copyright-protected systems and unfairly compete with established university, society and commercial publishers.

The legislation would be toxic for progressive initiatives such as the NIH’s Public Access Policy, which requires scientists to submit final peer-reviewed journal manuscripts that arise from NIH funds to the PubMed Central digital archive. PubMed Central provides free public access to research the public pays for. SPARC’s Alliance for Taxpayer Access website has outlined specific ways that supporters of public access can speak out against this proposed legislation. Especially helpful is contacting the Congressional offices listed below. Please voice your support for public access to publicly funded research.

Representative Issa
@DarrellIssa
http://issa.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=597&Itemid=73
Fax: (202) 225-3303

Representative Maloney
@RepMaloney
https://maloney.house.gov/contact-me/email-me (Using zip code 10128-3679)
Fax: (202) 225-4709

Members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee – especially if you’re a constituent.
http://1.usa.gov/zDqnne

Your representative – through the Alliance for Taxpayer Access Action Center: http://www.congressweb.com/cweb2/index.cfm/siteid/sparc

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Brazil introduces OER into federal legislation and adopts local government policy

Timothy Vollmer, June 15th, 2011

IMG_0309
OER seminar at the Sao Paulo Legislative Assembly by reanetbr / CC BY

There’s been some exciting announcements in support of open educational resources (OER) in Brazil over the last few weeks.

First, legislation was introduced into Brazil’s House of Representatives. The bill deals with three main issues: It 1) requires government funded educational resources to be made widely available to the public under an open license, 2) clarifies that resources produced by public servants under his/her official capacities should be open educational resources (or otherwise released under an open access framework), and 3) urges the government to support open federated systems for the distribution and archiving of OER. Last week in São Paulo, a group of educators, journalists, policymakers, activists, and OER experts held an event at the Legislative Assembly to discuss open education projects and promote OER policies. In addition to this federal legislation, a similar bill will be introduced at the São Paulo state level.

Second, the municipality of São Paulo Department of Education has now mandated that all its educational and pedagogical content will be made available under the Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial Share-Alike (BY-NC-SA) license. From the translated announcement:

“We didn’t have an appropriate way to license our content”, says Alexandre Schneider, Secretary of Education. “We hold the rights to our content because we created it, and we realized it would be right to release it under a license that allows everyone to use and adapt what was created with public money.”

Congratulations to the REA-Brasil (OER-Brazil) team on these recent successes and ongoing commitment to supporting open education in Brazil.

 

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