The White House Directive: One Year in, Time for Further Action

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February 22, 2014

One year ago today, Open Access advocates, researchers, librarians, technology leaders, patient advocates, entrepreneurs, students, and every-day Americans celebrated as the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy issued a landmark directive requiring that the results of all publicly funded research be made freely available. SPARC was among those cheering the loudest.

The Directive was the result of a long effort by the Open Access movement, including a four-year campaign that began when then-Senator Obama was running his first campaign for president. It reflected on the results of extensive conversations with all stakeholder groups, including, extensive public feedback given during administration requests for public comments in 2009 and 2011; the consideration of feedback from an Open Access Interagency Working Group convened at the request of Congress (via the America COMPETES Act); and support from more than 65,000 Americans who signed an Administration “We the People” petition in 2012 calling for this action.

Needless-to-say, the Directive marked a major achievement for both open access and open government. It affirmed the principle that the public has a right to access and use the results of research their tax dollars funded and closely aligns with the FASTR Act, providing for the first time bipartisan, bicameral, and Executive Branch support.

As we look back at this past year, there is considerable progress to celebrate. Open Access policies gained momentum in Congress, in states, and internationally. The trend of higher education institutions actively working to maximize access to and sharing of research results is proceeding apace. And increasingly, professional societies - including notable organizations who were previously hesitant to embrace Open Access, including the AAAS and the Royal Society – are making moves, underscoring to people who have doubts that Open Access is the way the research community wants to proceed.

Amidst all of these positives, there’s one area where the progress has been a little slower.  As we mark the one-year anniversary of the Directive the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) have not publically released the agency plans. The White House Memorandum called on federal agencies and departments to submit a draft plan to the Office of Science and Technology Policy by August 22, 2013. However, to date, none have been publically released. Transparency is a vital component to meeting the objectives detailed in the Memorandum, and as the Directive clearly states, all stakeholders should and will have the opportunity to adequately evaluate the plans before they become final.

We hope we’ll have that opportunity before too long.

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