white house

White House issues directive supporting public access to publicly funded research

Timothy Vollmer, February 22nd, 2013

Today, the White House issued a Directive supporting public access to publicly-funded research.

John Holdren, Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, “has directed Federal agencies with more than $100M in R&D expenditures to develop plans to make the published results of federally funded research freely available to the public within one year of publication and requiring researchers to better account for and manage the digital data resulting from federally funded scientific research.”

Each agency covered by the Directive (54 KB PDF) must “Ensure that the public can read, download, and analyze in digital form final peer reviewed manuscripts or final published documents within a timeframe that is appropriate for each type of research conducted or sponsored by the agency.”

The Directive comes out after a multi-year campaign organized by Open Access advocates, and reflects a groundswell of grassroots support for public access to the scientific research that the public pays for. Of course, the White House Directive is issued on the heels of the introduction of the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR). Both the Directive and the FASTR legislation are complementary approaches to ensuring that the public can access and use the scientific research it pays for.

We applaud this important policy Directive. While the Directive and FASTR do not specifically require the application of open licenses to the scientific research outputs funded with federal tax dollars, both actions represent crucial steps toward increasing public access to research.

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Sign the U.S. Petition to Support Public Access to Publicly Funded Scientific Research

Timothy Vollmer, May 21st, 2012

This week, open access advocates in the United States and around the world are rallying around a petition that urges public access to publicly funded research. The petition is now live on Whitehouse.gov’s We the People platform:

Require free access over the Internet to scientific journal articles arising from taxpayer-funded research.

We believe in the power of the Internet to foster innovation, research, and education. Requiring the published results of taxpayer-funded research to be posted on the Internet in human and machine readable form would provide access to patients and caregivers, students and their teachers, researchers, entrepreneurs, and other taxpayers who paid for the research. Expanding access would speed the research process and increase the return on our investment in scientific research.

The highly successful Public Access Policy of the National Institutes of Health proves that this can be done without disrupting the research process, and we urge President Obama to act now to implement open access policies for all federal agencies that fund scientific research.

The Obama Administration has been interested in exploring policy options for ensuring that the public has access to publicly funded research, and recently received nearly 500 comments on its request for information on these issues. 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.

With grassroots petitions like this one, publisher boycotts, updates to funding policies (pdf), and investments in open access, it seems that the “academic spring” has arrived.

The petition can be supported by persons outside of the U.S. You can follow updates from the organizers — Access2Research — on their website, Twitter, and Facebook.

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Comments to the White House Inquiry on Public Access to Publicly Funded Research Publications, Data

Timothy Vollmer, January 13th, 2012

In November we wrote that the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) was soliciting comments on two related Requests for Information (RFI). One asked for feedback on how the federal government should manage public access to scholarly publications resulting from federal investments, and the other wanted input on public access to the digital data funded by federal tax dollars.

Creative Commons submitted a response to both RFIs. Below is a brief summary of the main points. Several other groups and individuals have submitted responses to OSTP, and all the comments will eventually be made available on the OSTP website.

Response to Publications RFI

  • The public funds tens of billions of dollars in research each year. The federal government can support scientific innovation, productivity, and economic efficiency of the taxpayer dollars they expend by instituting an open licensing policy.
  • Scholarly articles created as a result of federally funded research should be released under full open access. Full open access policies will provide to the public immediate, free-of-cost online availability to federally funded research without restriction except that attribution be given to the source.
  • The standard means for granting permission to the public aligned with full open access is through a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license.

Response to Data RFI

  • If the federal government wants to maximize the impact of digital data resulting from federally funded scientific research, it should provide explicit, easy-to-understand information about the rights available to the public.
  • The federal government should establish policies that insure the public has cost-free, unimpeded access to the digital data resulting from federally funded scientific research. Access to this data should be made available as soon as possible, with due consideration to confidentiality and privacy issues, as well as the researchers’ need to receive credit and benefit from the work.
  • The federal government can grant these permissions to the public by supporting policies whereby 1) data is made available by dedicating it to the public domain or 2) data is made available through a liberal license where at most downstream data users must give credit to the source of the data. CC offers tools such as the CC0 waiver and CC BY license in support of these goals.
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Reminder: White House wants your input on Public Access to Data and Publications

Timothy Vollmer, November 30th, 2011

In the U.S., the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) has released two Requests for Information (RFI) soliciting public input on long term preservation of and public access to the results of federally funded research, including digital data and peer-reviewed scholarly publications. The deadline for responding to the RFIs is January 2, 2012.

Persons and parties interested in weighing in on the requests can find more information in the Federal Register announcements:

Our friends at SPARC offer some additional guidance, also listed below:

It is important that as many individuals and organizations as possible – at all levels – respond to these requests for information. For reference, the RFI specifically calls for comments from “non-Federal stakeholders, including the public, universities, nonprofit and for-profit publishers, libraries, federally funded and non-federally funded research scientists, and other organizations and institutions with a stake in long-term preservation and access to the results of federally funded research.” Both RFIs pose a series of questions, and respondents should answer those questions as specifically as possible. It should be emphasized that organizations beyond the U.S., with experience with open-access policies, are also invited to contribute.

The input provided through this RFI will inform the National Science and Technology Council’s Task Force on Public Access to Scholarly Publications, convened by OSTP. OSTP will issue a report to Congress describing: 1) Priorities for the development of agency policies for ensuring broad public access to the results of federally funded, unclassified research; 2) The status of agency policies for public access to publications resulting from federally funded research; and 3) Public input collected.

The main point to emphasize is that taxpayers are entitled to access the results of the research our tax dollars fund. Taxpayers should be allowed to immediately access and fully reuse the results of publicly funded research.

Again, the deadline for submissions is January 2, 2012. Submissions to the publications RFI should be sent via email to publicaccess [at] ostp [dot] gov. Submissions to the data RFI should be sent via email to digitaldata [at] ostp [dot] gov. Please note: OSTP will publicly post all submissions after the deadlines (along with names of submitters and their institutions) so please make sure not to include any confidential or proprietary information in your submission. Attachments may be included.

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2010 Digital Media and Learning Competition

Jane Park, December 17th, 2009

HASTAC’s third annual Digital Media and Learning Competition launched yesterday, an initiative supported by the MacArthur Foundation. Last year‘s theme was participatory learning, and CC Learn was awarded a grant for Student Journalism 2.0—a pilot initiative “engaging high school students in understanding the legal and technical issues intrinsic to new and evolving journalistic practices.” The pilot, by the way, is in full swing, and we are entering our second semester after the holidays. Check out sj.creativecommons.org for updates.

This year’s DMLC theme is “Competition is Reimagining Learning and there are two types of awards: 21st Century Learning Lab Designers and Game Changers.” From the announcement,

“Aligned with National Lab Day as part of the White House’s Educate to Innovate Initiative, the 21st Century Learning Lab Designer awards will range from $30,000-$200,000. Awards will be made for learning environments and digital media-based experiences that allow young people to grapple with social challenges through activities based on the social nature, contexts, and ideas of science, technology, engineering and math.”

For more or to apply, see dmlcompetition.net. The winning products and/or programs in the 21st Century Learning Lab Designers category will be licensed CC BY-NC-SA or be available as Open Source.

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The American Graduation Initiative

Jane Park, July 15th, 2009

President Obama announced yesterday the American Graduation Initiative, a twelve billion dollar plan to reform U.S. community colleges. The initiative calls for five million additional community college graduates by 2020, and plans that “increase the effectiveness and impact of community colleges, raise graduation rates, modernize facilities, and create new online learning opportunities” to aid this goal.

A significant component of the initiative is the plan to “create a new online skills laboratory.” From the fact sheet,

“Online educational software has the potential to help students learn more in less time than they would with traditional classroom instruction alone. Interactive software can tailor instruction to individual students like human tutors do, while simulations and multimedia software offer experiential learning. Online instruction can also be a powerful tool for extending learning opportunities to rural areas or working adults who need to fit their coursework around families and jobs. New open online courses will create new routes for students to gain knowledge, skills and credentials. They will be developed by teams of experts in content knowledge, pedagogy, and technology and made available for modification, adaptation and sharing. The Departments of Defense, Education, and Labor will work together to make the courses freely available through one or more community colleges and the Defense Department’s distributed learning network, explore ways to award academic credit based upon achievement rather than class hours, and rigorously evaluate the results.”

It is important to note here the difference between “open” and simply accessible “online”. Truly open resources for education are clearly designated as such with a standard license that allows not only access, but the freedoms to share, adapt, remix, or redistribute those resources. The educational materials that make up the new open online courses for this initiative should be open in this manner, especially since they will result from a government plan. We are excited about this initiative and hope the license for its educational materials will allow all of these freedoms. Catherine Casserly, formerly in charge of open educational resources at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation (now at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching), writes,

“Today at Macomb College, President Barack Obama announced a proposal to commit $50 million for the development of open online courses for community colleges as part of the American Graduation Initiative: Stronger American Skills through Community Colleges. As proposed, the courses will be freely available for use as is and for adaption as appropriate for targeted student populations. The materials will carry a Creative Commons license.”

You can read the official announcement at the White House site on their blog and visit the briefing room for the full fact sheet.

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Why Did the White House Choose Attribution and not Public Domain?

Fred Benenson, April 29th, 2009

obama_flickr
The microblogs have been a-buzz this morning about news of the launch of the official White House Flickr stream featuring photos from Obama’s first 100 days in office. While the photos are licensed under our Attribution license, one could make the very strong argument that they’re actually in the public domain and can be used without attribution (though one would have to be careful and respect the personality rights of the private citizens featured in some of the photos). The photos are likely in the public domain because they are works created by the federal government and not entitled to copyright protection. As you might recall, the Whitehouse.gov’s copyright notice indicates as much.

Why would the White House then choose Attribution for their Flickr stream? Simple, unlike communities like Wikipedia and Thingiverse, Flickr doesn’t allow their photographers to choose Public Domain as an option to release their work to the world. So the Obama team must have picked the next best option: Attribution only.

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The 3rd Party Content of Whitehouse.gov

Fred Benenson, March 25th, 2009

Whitehouse.govWhen Whitehouse.gov relaunched itself during Barack Obama’s inauguration it included a clause in its copyright policy mandating that all 3rd party content on the site be released under our Attribution license. Until yesterday, there wasn’t much third party content on the site. However, as of this writing, 13,785 people have submitted 16,561 questions and cast 508,450 votes in the site’s “Open For Questions” section. President Obama will answer some of these questions on Thursday morning in a special online town hall.

While the copyright status of each individual question may not seem significant, all of the questions taken in aggregate are of unquestionable value for current and future generations of journalists, historians and citizens. By placing this corpus under our most permissive license, the Obama Administration has secured that the public will always have access to this unprecedented part of American presidential history.

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Recovery.gov Following Whitehouse.gov’s Lead

Fred Benenson, March 20th, 2009

Recovery.govRecovery.gov is the site that provides US citizens with the the ability to monitor the progress of the country’s recovery via the The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. As with Whitehouse.gov, the Obama administration is presciently using our Attribution license 3.0 for all third party content on the site, while all of the original content site created by the federal government remains unrestricted by copyright and therefore in the public domain.

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Michael Geist on Why Whitehouse.gov’s Copyright Policy Matters

Fred Benenson, January 22nd, 2009

Canadian copyright scholar Michael Geist explains why Whitehouse.gov‘s adoption of our Attribution license for 3rd party content is important in light of Canada’s policy on government works:

Now consider the Prime Minister of Canada’s copyright notice:
The material on this site is covered by the provisions of the Copyright Act, by Canadian laws, policies, regulations and international agreements. Such provisions serve to identify the information source and, in specific instances, to prohibit reproduction of materials without written permission. …

While this is better than some other Canadian government departments (who require permission for all uses), it is still not good enough. First, Canada should drop crown copyright so that there is no copyright in government-produced materials. Second, there is no need for a distinction between commercial and non-commercial – Canadians should be free to use the government-produced materials for either purpose without permission. Third, third-party materials, which are Creative Commons licensed in the U.S., are subject to full restrictions in Canada.

While the decision to use CC on Whitehouse.gov may appear uncontroversial in light of the fact that US federal works are not subject to copyright protection, very few other countries share this policy as evidenced by Geist’s post. This is precisely where Creative Commons can help. Obama’s far sighted choice should serve as an example for other governments around the world: now is the time to start sharing.

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