Obama administration should require sharing of federally funded educational resources under Creative Commons licenses
Today, Creative Commons and a broad coalition of education, library, technology, public interest, and legal organizations are calling upon the White House to take administrative action to ensure that federally funded educational materials are made available as Open Educational Resources (OER) for the public to freely use, share, and improve.
We ask the administration to adopt a strong Executive branch-wide policy requiring that educational, training, and instructional materials created with federal funds be shared under an open license. Some agencies have already implemented an open licensing policy for the outputs of federal grants, including the $2 billion Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant Program, jointly administered by the Departments of Labor and Education. In order to receive these funds, grantees are required to license to the public all work created with the support of the grant under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 (CC BY) license.
In issuing this public statement, we hope to ensure that the billions of taxpayer dollars invested in the creation of educational materials produce resources that are freely available to the members of the public that paid for them. The administration has both an educational and economic imperative to increase access to learning and workforce development opportunities. Further, it has the opportunity to spur innovation through opening access to a wealth of educational resources that can be improved and built upon.
To ensure that administrative policy advances these goals, the coalition has outlined five core principles for executive action:
- Adopt a broad definition of educational materials.
- Provide free online access to these educational resources.
- Create conditions that enable easy reuse of materials.
- Require prompt implementation of the policy.
- Mandate regular reporting of progress and results.
The following can be attributed to Cable Green, Director of Global Learning at Creative Commons:
“By embracing Creative Commons licenses for the digital education and training outputs of federal agency grant making, the Obama administration will be demonstrating its commitment to collaboration, innovation, and effective government spending. When we contribute publicly funded educational materials to the public commons, everyone wins. This type of sharing is worth fighting for.”4 Comments »
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.3 Comments »
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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:
- Request for Information: Public Access to Digital Data Resulting From Federally Funded Scientific Research
- Request for Information: Public Access to Peer-Reviewed Scholarly Publications Resulting From Federally Funded Research
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.2 Comments »