It’s time to #MoveFASTR: support public access to publicly-funded research

Timothy Vollmer

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Shinkansen Tokyo by Parag.naik, available under the CC BY-SA license.

Tomorrow the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs will markup S. 779, the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (called FASTR for short). The bill–if enacted–would increase access to federally funded research. It was introduced in both the Senate and House of Representatives on March 18, 2015.

FASTR requires federal agencies with annual external research budgets of $100 million or more to provide the public with online access to the research articles stemming from that funding no later than 6 months after publication in a peer-reviewed journal. FASTR would extend the current NIH Public Access Policy to several federal agencies, such as the Department of Agriculture, Department of Energy, NASA, the National Science Foundation, and others.

We’ve supported policies aligned with the practice of making taxpayer funded research available free online, ideally under an open license that communicates broad downstream use rights, such as CC BY. In addition to making articles free to access and read, FASTR ensures that the research generated from federal tax dollars is made available and useful for new research techniques such as text and data mining. FASTR includes a provision to study the possible impact of requiring open licensing for federally funded research articles. The text calls for agencies to examine:

“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;”

FASTR would solidify the February 2013 White House directive aimed to increase access to the results of federally funded scientific research. That memorandum is similar in scope to FASTR, but since it is a directive and not a law, a subsequent administration could rescind that order.

It’s time to #MoveFASTR, and you can help! Check out the SPARC action page for ways to support FASTR. For example, you can:

  1. Call your Members of Congress and express your support for FASTR. You can reach them by calling the US Capitol’s switchboard at 202-224-3121 and asking for your Senators.
  2. Engage your Senators on social media by tweeting at your elected officials about FASTR using the hashtag #MoveFASTR, or post about the bill on Facebook. You can find a list of all the twitter accounts for Congress here.
  3. Write a letter of support for this legislation and send it to your Senators. You can find a draft letter of support here. You can find your Senators’ contact information to submit the letter here.