A Timely Development: More Action on Public Access to Publicly Funded Research

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January 15, 2014

As SPARC joins many of our friends and partner organizations in marking Copyright Week, we’re watching with interest as the U.S. Congress once again appears to be poised to take positive action to ensure that members of the public have ready access to articles that report on research that their tax dollars support.  

After reaching bipartisan agreement on spending levels in December, the U.S. Congress this week released the final language for the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014.  Of deep interest to our community, the bill contains language that directs the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education to make articles reporting on their funded research freely available online to the public in machine readable form no later than 12 months after publication in a peer reviewed journal.  

Section 527 of the proposed legislation reads: “Each Federal agency, or in the case of an agency with multiple bureaus, each bureau (or operating division) funded under this Act that has research and development expenditures in excess of $100,000,000 per year shall develop a Federal research public access policy that provides for: 

  • The submission to the agency, agency bureau, or designated entity acting on behalf of the agency, a machine-readable version of the author’s final peer-reviewed manuscripts that have been accepted for publication in peer-reviewed journals describing research supported, in whole or in part, from funding by the Federal Government; 
  • Free online public access to such final peer-reviewed manuscripts no later than 12 months after the official date of publication and
  • Compliance with all relevant copyright laws.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted to approve on this measure earlier today, with the U.S. Senate slated to follow with a vote by the end of this week. 

It’s particularly fitting that this news is surfacing today. Each day of Copyright Week is devoted to discussion, education and action on a specific principle, and today has been designated as the day to support the principle that “the results of publicly funded research should be made freely available to the public online, to be fully used by anyone, anywhere, anytime.”

If this measure passes, it will build on the momentum towards this principle first established by the National Institutes of Health Public Access Policy, and more recently advanced by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Directive on Public Access to Publicly Funded Research Results.  We’ll be watching the progress of this legislation closely, and hope to be able to report its successful passage before the close of the week.

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