A Letter to Congress on Public Access from the Higher Education Community

October 25, 2013

The United States Congress is currently considering a new piece of legislation, the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR). FASTR would require Federal agencies whose extramural research budgets exceed $100 million to develop policies ensuring open, public access to the research supported by their grants or conducted by their employees. This bill embodies core ideals shared by higher education, research institutions and their partners everywhere. The bill builds upon the success of the first U.S. policy for public access to publicly funded research – implemented in 2008 through the National Institutes of Health (NIH), along with the recently announced White House directive to expand NIH’s policy to all federal agencies. FASTR also mirrors the intent of campus-based policies for research access that are being adopted by a growing number of public and private institutions across the nation.

We believe that this legislation represents a watershed and provides an opportunity for the entire U.S. higher education and research community to draw upon their traditional partnerships and collaboratively realize the unquestionably good intentions of the bill’s framers – broadening access to publicly funded research in order to accelerate the advancement of knowledge and maximize the related public good. By ensuring broad and diverse access to taxpayer-funded research the bill also supports the intuitive and democratic principle that, with reasonable exceptions for issues of national security, the public ought to have access to the results of activities it funds.

The broad dissemination of the results of scholarly inquiry and discourse is essential for higher education to fulfill its long-standing commitment to the advancement and conveyance of knowledge. Indeed, it is mission critical. For the land-grant and publicly funded institutions among us, it addresses the complementary commitment to public service and public access that is included in our charters. In keeping with this mission, we agree with FASTR’s basic premise that enabling the broadest possible access to new ideas resulting from government-funded research promotes progress, economic growth, and public welfare. Furthermore, we know that, when combined with public policy such as FASTR proposes, the Internet and digital technology are powerful tools for removing access barriers and enabling new and creative uses of the results of research. To that end, FASTR improves on earlier versions of open access legislation by including provisions to ensure that articles are fully reusable to enable automated analysis by new technologies, unlocking cutting edge, multidisciplinary research and further empowering innovation. 

Collectively, our universities engage in billions of dollars of funded research. On average, approximately 50% of our research funding originates with the federal government.  That public investment – estimated at over $60.5 billion for the research covered by FASTR – is complemented by our own institutional investments in research units, laboratories, libraries, and the faculty and staff whose expertise permeates them.

FASTR has the potential to enable the maximum downstream use of those investments.  Many of us are already working on programs and policies to promote greater access to the wealth of research produced by our scholars; we are adopting policies for open access to the research outputs of our institutions; we are building open access digital repositories to collect research, developing advanced publishing channels, and working with our scholarly publishing partners to pursue the broadest possible distribution of scholarship at lowest possible costs. FASTR will complement these efforts and be a powerful tool in ensuring their success.       

    



Each month the evidence mounts that open access to research through digital distribution increases the use of that research and the visibility of its creators. Widespread public dissemination levels the economic playing field for researchers outside of well-funded universities and research centers and creates more opportunities for innovation. Ease of access and discovery, along with the right to fully reuse resources, also encourages use by scholars outside traditional disciplinary communities, thus encouraging imaginative and productive scholarly convergence. 

Open and public access policies can also match the missions of scholarly societies and publishers who review, edit, and distribute research to serve the advancement of knowledge. Sharing the fruits of research and scholarship inevitably leads to the creation of more research and scholarship, thus highlighting the need for publishing professionals to manage the selection and review of the highest quality research, both publicly and privately funded.

Open and public access to publications in no way negates the need for well-managed and effective peer review or the need for formal publishing. It does, however, challenge us all to think about how best to align the intellectual and economic models for scholarly publishing with the needs of contemporary scholarship and the benefits, including low marginal costs of distribution, of network technology. That challenge is one that many scholarly societies and commercial publishers are already successfully engaging through a variety of business model experiments and partnerships. We believe that FASTR productively calls for further engagement.

As scholars and university administrators, we are acutely aware that the present system of scholarly communication does not always serve the best interests of our institutions or the general public. Scholarly publishers, academic libraries, university leaders, and scholars themselves must engage in an ongoing dialogue about the means of scholarly production and distribution. This dialogue must acknowledge both our competing interests and our common goals. The passage of FASTR will be an important step in catalyzing that dialogue, but it is not the last one that we will need to take.

FASTR is good for education and good for research. It is good for the American public, and it promotes broad, democratic access to knowledge. While it challenges the academy and scholarly publishers to think and act creatively, it need not threaten nor undermine a successful balance of our interests. If passed, we will work with researchers, publishers, and federal agencies to ensure its successful implementation. We endorse FASTR’s aims and urge the academic community, individually and collectively, to voice support for its passage.

Ball State University Terry King Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
Brandeis University Steve A. N. Goldstein Provost and Professor of Biochemistry 
Brown University Mark Schlissel Provost
Bryn Mawr College Mary J. Osirim Interim Provost and Professor of Sociology
Bucknell University Michael A. Smyer Provost
Dartmouth College Martin Wybourne Interim Provost
Duke University Peter Lange Provost
East Carolina University in Greenville, NC Dr. Marilyn Sheerer Provost & Senior Vice Chancellor
Emory University Claire Sterk  Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs
Florida International University Douglas Wartzok Provost and Executive Vice President
Georgia Institute of Technology Rafael Bras Provost & Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs
Georgia State University Risa Palm Senior Vice President, Academic Affairs & Provost
Grand Valley State University Gayle Davis, PhD Vice President for Academic Affairs
Gustavus Adolphus College Mark J. Braun Provost and Dean of the College
Hope College Richard Ray Provost and Professor of Kinesiology
Illinois Wesleyan University Jonathan D. Green Provost and Dean of the Faculty
Indiana University– Purdue University Indianapolis Dr. Nasser H. Paydar Executive Vice Chancellor and Chief Academic Officer
Iowa State University Jonathan Wickert Senior Vice President and Provost
Kansas State University April Mason Provost & Senior Vice President
Lawrence University David Burrows Provost and Dean of the Faculty
Louisiana State University Stuart Bell Executive Vice Chancellor & Provost
Miami University Bobby Gempesaw Provost & Executive Vice President, Academic Affairs
Montana State University Martha A. Potvin Provost/Vice President for Academic Affairs
Northern Illinois University Kathryn A. Buettner Vice President for University Relations
Oberlin College Joyce Babyak Acting Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences
Ohio State University Joseph E. Steinmetz Executive Vice President and Provost
Oregon State University Sabah Randhawa Provost and Executive Vice President 
Pennsylvania State University Nicholas P. Jones Executive Vice President and Provost
Portland State University Sona Karentz Andrews Provost & Vice President for Academic Affairs
Purdue University Tim Sands Provost
Rollins College Lewis M. Duncan President
San Diego State University Nancy Marlin Provost
Texas Tech University Lawrence Schovanec Interim Provost 
Trinity University Dr. Michael Fischer Vice President for Faculty and Student Affairs
Tulane University Michael Bernstein  Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost
University at Albany Susan Phillips Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
University at Buffalo Dr. Charles F. Zukoski Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs
University Corporation for Atmospheric Research Thomas Bogdan President
University of Arizona Andrew C. Comrie Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs & Provost
University of California, Los Angeles Scott L. Waugh Executive Vice Chancellor & Provost
University of California, Merced Tom Peterson Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor
University of California, San Diego Suresh Subramani Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs
University of California, Santa Barbara Glenn E. (Gene) Lucas Executive Vice Chancellor & Provost
University of Colorado Boulder Russell Moore Provost & Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs
University of Denver Gregg Kvistad Provost
University of Kansas Jeffrey S. Vitter Provost & Executive Vice Chancellor
University of Kentucky Dr. Christine M. Riordan Provost and Professor of Management
University of Massachusetts Amherst James V. Staros Provost & Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs
University of Minnesota Karen Hanson Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost
University of New Mexico Chaouki T. Abdallah Provost & Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs
University of North Carolina at Charlotte Joan Lorden Provost & Vice Chancellor, Academic Affairs
University of North Carolina at Greensboro Dave Perrin Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor
University of North Texas Warren W. Burggren Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
University of Oregon Scott Coltrane Interim Sr. Vice President and Provost
University of Rhode Island Donald DeHayes Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
University of South Dakota Chuck Staben Provost & Vice President for Academic Affairs
University of Texas at San Antonio John Frederick Provost & Vice President, Academic Affairs
University of Washington Ana Mari Cauce Provost and Executive Vice President
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Johannes Britz Provost & Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs
Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University Mark McNamee Senior Vice President & Provost, Academic Affairs
Wake Forest University Rogan Kersh Provost
Washington State University Daniel Bernardo Interim Provost & Executive Vice President
Washington University in St. Louis Holden Thorp Provost and Professor of Chemistry and Medicine
West Virginia University Michele Wheatly Provost & Vice President for Academic Affairs
Whitman College Timothy V. Kaufman-Osborn Provost and Dean of the Faculty

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