Higher Education Community Supports Public Access to Taxpayer Funded Research

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Andrea Higginbotham
Communications Manager, SPARC

For Immediate Release                                                                      
(202) 296-2296 x 121

Friday October 25, 2013


Higher Education Community Supports Public Access to Taxpayer Funded Research in Record Numbers

More than 60 Provosts Urge Congress to Pass FASTR Bill

Washington, DC – Provosts from universities and colleges across the country are urging Congress to pass a bill that would accelerate scientific discovery and fuel innovation by providing the public with free online access to articles reporting on federally-funded research.

Every year, the federal government uses taxpayer dollars to fund tens of billions of dollars of scientific research that results in thousands upon thousands of articles published in scientific journals. The government funds this research with the understanding that it will advance science, spur the economy, accelerate innovation, and improve the lives of our citizens. Yet most taxpayers – including academics, students, and patients – are shut out of accessing and using the results of the research that their tax dollars fund, because it is only available through expensive and often hard-to-access scientific journals.

The bipartisan, bicameral Fair Access to Science and Technology Research (FASTR) Act  requires that every federal agency or department funding more than $100 million in research make that research available to the public in a reusable format within six months of publication for anyone to read and build upon.

“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,” wrote 65 presidents and provosts in a letter sent to Congress today.

Spearheading the Higher Education support campaign, Jeffrey Vitter, Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor of the University of Kansas was also the provost of the first public institution to pass an Open Access policy. "FASTR embodies core ideals shared by higher education and complements investments already made on our campuses," he noted.  

This latest indication of support signals a growing trend across the higher education landscape. Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, Oberlin College, and the University of Kansas are just a few examples of the increasing number of colleges and universities that have adopted campus-based policies making their research articles available to the public online, at no cost. FASTR embodies the principles behind this trend, and raises the issue to the national level.

“Access to scientific research maximizes research investments and improves the quality of science, while ensuring transparency and efficient use of tax dollars. Simply put, taxpayers should not have to pay for taxpayer-funded research over and over again,” stated Congressman Yoder. “I’m a proud lead cosponsor on the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act, and I applaud my Alma Mater, the University of Kansas, in the leading role they’ve taken to promote open access.”

“We’re pleased to see this growing support for policies like FASTR that will spur innovation and expand access to information for all,” said Heather Joseph, Executive Director of SPARC, which works to broaden support for Open Access to scholarly research. “We’re grateful for the outpouring of support from so many provosts and presidents and their recognition that FASTR will advance their institutional missions.”

A copy of the letter and a list of the 65 college and university signatures is available here.

The letter comes during the sixth annual Open Access Week, a global event representing more than 140 countries that highlights the power of Open Access to increase the impact of scientific and scholarly research. A list of activities and events occurring around the globe can be found here.  



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 http://www.sparc.arl.org