open access

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.


Clarifications about CC BY in the UK Open Access Policy

Timothy Vollmer, February 8th, 2013

In the UK, the House of Commons has asked for feedback on their Open Access Policy. One provision of that policy requires that articles funded through the Research Councils UK (RCUK) must be released under a CC BY license. Last year, CC submitted a short comment in support.

And just last month, the House of Lords completed a consultation period which has generated some misinformation about how the CC BY license operates. So, in order to clarify some of these misconceptions, Creative Commons and Creative Commons UK submitted a joint response to the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee to set the record straight.

We’ve pulled together some clarifications to some of the uncertainty lobbed at the CC BY license provision in the Open Access Policy. Some of the reasons given that CC BY should not be retained include:

  • it would promote “misuse of research or would cause authors to “lose control of their work”
  • third party rights negotiations for content that authors wish to include within an openly licensed article would prove too difficult
  • open licensing provides less protection against plagiarism
  • CC BY is not widely used in OA publishing
  • authors should choose licensing conditions, not funders

These claims are confusing, misguided, or not backed up by evidence. We offer our responses and support here.

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Celebrate Open Access Week with CC

Elliot Harmon, October 18th, 2012

Next week, Creative Commons will be joining individuals, institutions, and publishers all over the world in celebrating Open Access Week. Find out where you can find Creative Commons and its affiliates during OA Week, and share your own OA events in the comments.

Open Access Week 2012 Kickoff Webcast

On Monday, CC founding board member Michael Carroll will be speaking at the open access week kickoff event hosted by SPARC and the World Bank.

Webinar: Creative Commons and the Future of Open Access

On Tuesday, CC education technology and policy coordinator Greg Grossmeier will be speaking about CC licensing for open access publishing in a webinar hosted by the University of Northern Colorado Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning.

Open Data and Open Access Panel

If you’re in Northern California on Wednesday, join CC policy and data manager Timothy Vollmer, UC Davis university librarian and CC Science advisor MacKenzie Smith, and California Digital Library’s Carly Strasser for a discussion on advancements in open access and open data at UC Davis.

CC New Zealand Guest Blog Series

Courtesy of CC Aotearoa New Zealand, here’s a great collection of perspectives from thought leaders on the open access landscape in New Zealand.

Connecting the Dots Between Open Access and Open Educational Resources

Watch an archived discussion hosted by SPARC, with CC director of global learning Cable Green and Student Public Interest Research Groups’ Nicole Allen.

New Open Access Resources

Open Access Wikipedia Challenge
In this new School of Open challenge, learn how to reuse open access content to improve a Wikipedia article.

PLOS, SPARC, and OASPA have just released the first iteration of a great reference guide for understanding open access standards. Timothy recently wrote about the guide for the PLOS blog.

Good Practices for University Open-Access Policies
Our friends at the Harvard Open Access Project have written a new guide for universities considering OA policies.

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Budapest Open Access Initiative policy recommendations for the next 10 years

Timothy Vollmer, September 18th, 2012

Ten years after the release of the Budapest Open Access Initiative, OA advocates last week released updated recommendations in support of open access around the world, touching on areas including policy, licensing, sustainability, and advocacy. Of particular interest are recommendations that urge funders to require open access when they make grants: “When possible, funder policies should require libre OA, preferably under a CC-BY license or equivalent.” When funding agencies institute open access policies for the grant funds they distribute, they increase the impact of the research produced. This is because the outputs can be widely reused under the CC-BY license, which allows for reuse for any purpose (even commercial) so long as attribution is given to the author.

The updated recommendation document includes a section on licensing and reuse (see the three listed below). The document “recommend[s] CC-BY or an equivalent license as the optimal license for the publication, distribution, use, and reuse of scholarly work.”

OA repositories typically depend on permissions from others, such as authors or publishers, and are rarely in a position to require open licenses. However, policy makers in a position to direct deposits into repositories should require open licenses, preferably CC-BY, when they can.

OA journals are always in a position to require open licenses, yet most of them do not yet take advantage of the opportunity. We recommend CC-BY for all OA journals.

In developing strategy and setting priorities, we recognize that gratis access is better than priced access, libre access is better than gratis access, and libre under CC-BY or the equivalent is better than libre under more restrictive open licenses. We should achieve what we can when we can. We should not delay achieving gratis in order to achieve libre, and we should not stop with gratis when we can achieve libre.

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Counting down to the Open Knowledge Festival (Sept 17-22)

Jane Park, August 29th, 2012

We’re psyched to be a part of OKFestival: Open Knowledge in Action. The OKFestival takes place September 17-22, 2012 in Helsinki, Finland, and features “a series of hands-on workshops, talks, hackathons, meetings and sprints” exploring a variety of areas including open development, open cultural heritage, and gender and diversity in openness. You can buy tickets to the festival for any number of days until September 16 at The OKFestival website has all the details, including the preliminary schedule.

We are particularly interested in and helped to shape the Open Research and Education topic stream, where we are leading an “Open Peer Learning” workshop on Wednesday (Sept 19) from 11:30am to 3:30pm. For the workshop the School of Open (co-led by Creative Commons and P2PU) is combining forces with the OKFN’s School of Data to explore, test and develop learning challenges around open tools and practices in data, research, and education. Participation in the workshop is free (you don’t even have to buy a festival ticket), but space is limited, so RSVP at:

The workshop will be held in this awesome space, reserved for four HACK workshops:

hack-2 / juhuu / CC BY-NC-SA

For those of you able to come to Helsinki, look out for our CC staff reps, Jessica Coates and Timothy Vollmer, along with many of our European affiliates who will be holding a regional meeting on Day four of the fest.

For the rest of you, you can still participate in helping to build initiatives like the School of Open from wherever you are by visiting and signing up for the mailing lists there.

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Support Grows for Open Access to Science Research

Elliot Harmon, June 29th, 2012

PeerJ Founders Peter Binfield and Jason Hoyt
PeerJ Founders Peter Binfield and Jason Hoyt / Duncan Hull / CC BY

In their excellent Washington Post opinion piece, Matt Cooper and Elizabeth Wiley suggest that federally funded research should be freely accessible over the Internet. They argue that when students lose their access to academic databases after graduation, society doesn’t get the same benefits it could from that research:

Students’ library cards are a passport to the specialized knowledge found in academic journal articles — covering medicine and math, computer science and chemistry, and many other fields. These articles contain the cutting edge of our understanding and capture the genius of what has come before. In no uncertain terms, access to journals provides critical knowledge and an up-to-date education for tomorrow’s doctors, researchers and entrepreneurs.

But should that access cease at graduation? Or would you rather a graduating medical student, perhaps your future doctor, be able to keep up with the latest advances? Would you rather an ambitious graduate student feel comfortable leaving the academy to found the next Google, knowing she still has access to the latest insight in her field and is able to build upon it?

Cooper and Wiley’s organizations — the National Association of Graduate-Professional Students and the American Medical Student Association, respectively — joined Creative Commons and many other allies in support of a petition on for free access to scientific journal articles arising from taxpayer-funded research. The petition quickly reached its goal of 25,000 signatures, sending a clear message that it’s time for the government to rethink open access policies.

Meanwhile in Britain, the Minister for Universities and Science recently commissioned a study on how the UK could adopt open access for publicly-funded research. Dame Janet Finch and her team released their findings last week, championing in particular the “gold” route to open access.

But how do the publishers themselves fit into the discussion? Some are actively exploring open access publishing models. This month, Peter Binfield and Jason Hoyt unveiled PeerJ, a new kind of peer-reviewed academic publisher. Contributors pay a $99 lifetime membership fee, and all articles are licensed CC BY. Funded by Tim O’Reilly, PeerJ has been getting a lot of attention in the mainstream press.

Coincidentally, science publishing stalwart Nature has also adopted the CC BY license, through its open access component Scientific Reports. Previously, researchers could choose whether to license their works BY-NC-SA or BY-NC-ND. Starting July 1, they’ll have the CC BY option as well. Nature’s Jason Wilde explains the decision to drop the required noncommercial stipulation:

There has been much debate about commercial reuse on open access articles […] We believe in offering our authors choice. And we now know some authors will want to choose CC BY, not least as a result of new funder mandates. Unlike Nature Communications and our other titles, Scientific Reports does not have established revenues from commercial reprints or licensing, making it an economically viable proposition.

With governments, publishers, and the public all rethinking ways to make research more freely accessible, the climate seems right for a major shift toward open access.

Related: First Thoughts on the Finch Report: Good Steps but Missed Opportunities (Cameron Neylon)


World Bank Live Event Report: Open Access Policy and Development

Timothy Vollmer, May 24th, 2012

On Monday, the World Bank hosted an event called What the World Bank’s Open Access Policy Means for Development (you can view the video recording of the event at the link or embedded below). Participants included Peter Suber from Harvard University, Michael Carroll from American University (Mike is on the Board of Directors at Creative Commons), and Cyril Muller and Adam Wagstaff from the World Bank. The discussion was timely given the Bank’s recently-announced Open Access Policy and Open Knowledge Repository. We blogged about the Bank’s announcement of these two great initiatives. The World Bank’s Open Access Policy requires that all research outputs and knowledge products published by the Bank be licensed Creative Commons Attribution license (CC BY) as a default.

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The conversation Monday revolved around the impact and potential for World Bank research — and open access in general — for development in countries around the world. For example, how will access and reuse of research under an open access policy create opportunities to solve large global challenges such as climate change and hunger?

The panelists jumped in, and stated that an immediate, baseline benefit of the open access policy is that now, World Bank research is aggregated in one place and made available for free to anyone with an internet connection. This is not the case with subscription journals, where readers have to pay to view the articles. Mike Carroll noted the importance of addressing copyright concerns in open policies. Even when research is made available for free online, if readers are unclear about the rights available to them, the articles and data will not be as valuable or impactful. This is especially important in developing nations, where republication and moving information from the Internet to an offline environment requires copyright permission. With open licenses such as CC BY chosen by the World Bank, permission to republish and translate articles into other languages is automatically granted. Carroll pointed to related success in the Open Education space. He said that many MIT Open CourseWare materials have been translated and put into use in other countries (such as Vietnam) specifically because the original resources were published under an open license that permitted translation and reuse.

Suber and Muller said that one benefit of an open access policy (especially when combined with open access to the underlying data) is that it can help validate research and work toward consensus on a particular issue, such as climate change. This in turn can help policymakers make better, research-driven decisions. Muller said that open access promotes collaboration between colleagues, even those with different skill sets and backgrounds. With this comes the increased possibility of solving complex research problems in novel ways. Muller and Wagstaff noted that the Open Access Policy would help increase the visibility, access, and reuse of World Bank documents and research. This information will help increase the audience for important Bank research and will promote cross-border transfer of information, especially in a south-south direction (as opposed to north-south).

To highlight the dire situation in pricing for traditional journals, the panelists discussed Harvard’s recent announcement about the unsustainable cost of scholarly journal subscriptions. Suber noted that even with a journal budget of $9 million per year, the Harvard University Library realizes it cannot afford the ongoing agreements with commercial journal publishers. And clearly, if even Harvard can’t afford the full range of research, every other university in the world is worse off. However, Suber said that seven of Harvard’s nine colleges have adopted exemplary open access policies, thus retaining access to the research from Harvard faculty even if those faculty publish in traditional and expensive subscription journals.

Carroll pointed to a more fundamental problem with the current scholarly publishing ecosystem. Scholars have always written to maximize impact; the web helps makes it easy to publish to wide audience, at near zero cost. The logical conclusion to these two assumptions is that all scientific and scholarly research should be widely available for free online. However, this is not how things have shaken out. Instead, prices to access scholarly research has gone up dramatically, as half of science literature has been published by commercial houses. These commercial publishers have enjoyed up to 36% profit margins, even amid the worldwide financial crisis. This points to a larger problem, and hints that the current publishing system overall is broken. However, Suber said that there are currently some for-profit open access journals that are indeed profitable. However, he guessed that the profit margins at those companies was probably closer to 2-5%.

A related question from the audience asked why a scholar would want to publish research as open access if given the chance to publish her work in a “shiny” established journal. Panelists pointed out that the World Bank Open Access policy allows authors to do both. The policy requires that authors deposit a copy of their final paper in the Open Knowledge Repository, and doesn’t preclude researchers from publishing in traditional journals. Of course, while this framework is a step in the right direction, it doesn’t solve the underlying problem because big publishers continue to enjoy huge profit margins on their access-controlled subscription journals because university libraries continue to pay for the access that their faculty require.

Suber pointed out that there are other benefits to publishing work as open access. He said that publishing in open access journals allows authors to attach open licenses (such as CC BY) to their work. When they do so, they make the work more useful to readers and users. So, the smallest open access journal has a potentially larger audience than even the most popular paywalled journal because the work can reach anyone in the world with access to the Internet. When you couple this massive potential audience with the permission to republish and reuse via an open license, authors can maximize the impact of their work beyond the reach of any closed journal.

Mike Carroll also brought up the importance of new technologies and methods such as text mining as another tool to help solve complex problems. Challenges such as climate change are huge, and can’t be tackled by researchers individually. At the same time, there is now a huge body of research articles on the subject, and scholars are facing an information overload problem. That’s where text mining comes in, and allows researchers to conduct intensive computational analyses on huge sets of scientific texts in order to identify correlations, patterns, and unforeseen connections that would be impossible to understand by reading the articles by themselves. While the traditional publishing models typically block such text mining efforts, open access gives permission in advance, helping researchers solve problems faster and promote scientific innovation. Questions around the legal implications of text mining in relation to copyright are currently being discussed in the UK.


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’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.


World Bank stakes leadership position by announcing Open Access Policy and launching Open Knowledge Repository under Creative Commons

Diane Peters, April 10th, 2012

The World Bank has announced a new Open Access Policy! Effective July 1, 2012, the Open Access Policy requires that all research outputs and knowledge products published by the Bank be licensed Creative Commons Attribution license (CC BY) as a default. Today, as the first phase of this policy is unfolded, the Bank launched a new Open Knowledge Repository with more than 2,000 books, articles, reports and research papers under CC BY. President of the World Bank Group, Robert B. Zoellick, said in the press release:

“Knowledge is power. Making our knowledge widely and readily available will empower others to come up with solutions to the world’s toughest problems. Our new Open Access policy is the natural evolution for a World Bank that is opening up more and more.”

CC BY is the most permissive Creative Commons license, allowing others to reuse, remix and redistribute works, even commercially, as long as attribution is given to the copyright holder. It is recommended for those seeking maximum dissemination and re-use of their materials while preserving copyright. We applaud the World Bank for its leadership and embracing this objective by incorporating CC as the framework for its Open Access Policy.

Lawrence Lessig, Board member and co-founder of Creative Commons, says,

“The World Bank is not only leading by embracing the principles of open access. But by making its works available under a CC BY license, it is encouraging the widest spread of the knowledge it is producing. This work is incredibly valuable in assuring access to knowledge universally, and not just at elite universities.”

The Open Access Policy reinforces scholarship norms. The terms require that publishing embargoes are respected and research is made available under CC BY. The Bank “expects the amount of time it takes for externally published Bank content to be included in its institutional repository to diminish over time” and that the working paper versions of journal articles will be made available under CC BY without any embargo period. Additionally, the CC BY policy only applies to works published by the Bank. Works published by third party publishers will be made available in the repository under CC BY-NC-ND, with the option of CC BY should the publisher choose.

All of this content will be aggregated via the Open Knowledge Repository, which has been built with an eye toward maximizing interoperability, discoverability, and reusability by complying with Dublin Core metadata standards and the Open Archives Initiatives protocol for metadata harvesting:

“The repository will be fully interoperable with other major international repositories such as RePEc (Research Papers in Economics), SSRN and Economists Online. This means that the World Bank publishes just once in its own Open Knowledge Repository while its research is also “harvested” and made openly available through many other searchable online repositories, increasing the number of people able to find World Bank content.”

Currently, the repository contains books and papers from 2009-2012 in various fields and from all around the world, including the World Development Report and two World Bank journals, the World Bank Economic Review (WBER) and the World Bank Research Observer (WBRO). The Bank will continue to add new and old content, including those works published prior to 2009, and beginning in 2012, the Bank will include links to research-related datasets.

To learn how this exciting new move builds on the Bank’s other open efforts, read the press release.

For more info on the Open Access Policy, read the policy. For more info on the Open Knowledge Repository, see the feature article and FAQ.


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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