FIRST Act introduced with language severely undermining US public access policies

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, March 10, 2014

Contact: 
Ranit Schmelzer
202-538-1065 
sparcmedia@arl.org
  

LANGUAGE IN FIRST ACT PUTS UNITED STATES AT SEVERE DISADVANTAGE AGAINST INTERNATIONAL COMPETITORS 

Would Slow Pace of Scientific Discovery by Restricting Public Access to Federally Funded Legislation

Washington, DC – The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Research Coalition (SPARC), an international alliance of nearly 800 academic and research libraries, today announced its opposition to Section 303 of H.R. 4186, the Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science and Technology (FIRST) Act. This provision would impose significant barriers to the public’s ability to access the results of taxpayer-funded research. 

Section 303 of the bill would undercut the ability of federal agencies to effectively implement the widely supported White House Directive on Public Access to the Results of Federally Funded Research and undermine the successful public access program pioneered by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) – recently expanded through the FY14 Omnibus Appropriations Act to include the Departments Labor, Education and Health and Human Services.  Adoption of Section 303 would be a step backward from existing federal policy in the directive, and put the U.S. at a severe disadvantage among our global competitors.  

“This provision is not in the best interests of the taxpayers who fund scientific research, the scientists who use it to accelerate scientific progress, the teachers and students who rely on it for a high-quality education, and the thousands of U.S. businesses who depend on public access to stay competitive in the global marketplace,” said Heather Joseph, SPARC Executive Director. “We will continue to work with the many bipartisan members of the Congress who support open access to publicly funded research to improve the bill.”

Specifically, Section 303 would:

  • Slow the pace of scientific discovery by restricting public access to articles reporting on federally funded research for up to three years after initial publication.  This stands in stark contrast to the policies in use around the world, which call for maximum embargo periods of no more than six to 12 months.
  • Fail to support provisions that allow for shorter embargo periods to publicly funded research results.  This provision ignores the potential harm to stakeholders that can accrue through unnecessarily long delays.
  • Fail to ensure that federal agencies have full text copies of their funded research articles to archive and provide to the public for full use, and for long-term archiving.  By condoning a link to an article on a publisher’s website as an acceptable compliance mechanism, this provision puts the long term accessibility and utility of federally funded research articles at serious risk.  
  • Stifle researchers’ ability to share their own research and to access the works of others, slowing progress towards scientific discoveries, medical breakthroughs, treatments, and cures.
  • Make it harder for U.S. companies – especially small businesses and start-ups – to access cutting-edge research, thereby slowing their ability to innovate, create new products and services, and generate new jobs.
  • Waste further time and taxpayer dollars by calling for a needless, additional 18-month delay while agencies “develop plans for” policies.  This is a duplication of federal agency work that was required by the White House Directive and has, in large part, already been completed.
  • Impose unnecessary costs on federal agency public access programs by conflating access and preservation policies as applied to articles and data.  The legislation does not make clear enough what data must be made accessible, nor adequately articulate the location of where such data would reside, or its terms of use.

“Instead of imposing roadblocks to public access, we should encourage federal agencies to implement the White House Directive and encourage passage of the bipartisan, bicameral Fair Access to Science and Technology Research (FASTR) Act,” Joseph said.

The FIRST Act was introduced today in the House of Representatives by Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-IN). It is expected to be referred to the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.

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SPARC®, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, is an international alliance of academic and research libraries working to correct imbalances in the scholarly publishing system.  Developed by the Association of Research Libraries, SPARC has become a catalyst for change.  Its pragmatic focus is to stimulate the emergence of new scholarly communication models that expand the dissemination of scholarly research and reduce financial pressures on libraries.  More information can be found at www.arl.org/sparc and on Twitter @SPARC_NA.

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