SPARC responds to the Department of Energy's Public Access Plan

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For Immediate Release                                                       
Contact: Ranit Schmelzer, 202.538.1065

SPARC Statement on the Department of Energy’s Plan for Increasing Public Access to the Results of Federally-Funded Research

Washington, DC – Following is a statement by Heather Joseph, Executive Director of  SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition), on the Department of Energy’s (DOE) plan for increasing public access to the results of federally-funded scientific research. Twenty-one agencies and departments were required to draft plans under a landmark White House Directive issued by the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) on February 22, 2013.

“The White House Directive affirmed the principle that the public has a right to freely access, search, download and analyze the entire collection of articles and data resulting from research funded by the U.S. government. This will accelerate the pace of discovery and innovation, fuel economic growth and strengthen our global competitiveness. There are three key principles of the Directive – ensuring timely access, ease of access, and the ability to fully reuse these research results. SPARC will use these measures as we evaluate each agency’s plan, to ensure that the intent of the White House Directive is fully realized.

“The Administration has made open access a priority, and that is a huge step forward. The Department of Energy’s plan is the first opportunity we have to see how the Administration will deliver on this vision – and there are clearly mixed results. The DOE’s plan takes steps towards achieving the goals of the Directive, but falls short in some key areas.

“Most critically, the DOE plan does not adequately address the reuse rights that are necessary for the public to do more than simply access and read individual articles. Without clearly articulating these reuse rights, the public’s ability to download, analyze, text mine, data mine, and perform computational analysis on these articles is severely limited, and a crucial principle of the White House Directive cannot be fully realized.  

“We note that in its accompanying plan for ensuring access to digital data, the DOE specifically recognizes the need for data contained in its articles to be made open and machine-readable. We call on the DOE to work with the research community – and other Federal Agencies – to develop and provide clear, consistent reuse rights requirements for both articles and data resulting from their funded research.

“In terms of providing timely access to results of DOE funded research articles, while SPARC believes that immediate access is preferable, we are pleased that the plan conforms with OSTP’s recommendation that articles be made available no later than 12 months after publication. The plan does allow for articles to be made available sooner than 12 months, and we encourage DOE-funded researchers to choose the shortest possible embargo period for their work.

“The DOE plan is a mixed bag in terms of ease of access. While we applaud DOE for providing access to its articles through a variety of locations, including its own Agency database, through institutional repositories, as well as via publisher websites, the plan misses crucial opportunities. The establishment of the PAGES portal provides a first step towards locating DOE articles on these distributed web sites. However, we are concerned that the plan places too strong an emphasis on defaulting to versions of articles residing on publishers’ websites, where terms and conditions of use may be restricted. SPARC encourages DOE to ensure that articles are deposited into repositories immediately upon publication and are made available via channels where their reuse can be fully leveraged.

“The DOE’s plan suggests they are approaching the development of their public access plan as an iterative process and that community feedback will be welcomed and incorporated as the plan evolves. SPARC, and the entire open access community, are committed to working with the DOE – and all Federal Agencies – to ensure their plans meet the intent of the White House Directive.  In doing so, we are confident that the public will truly have timely, unfettered access to the research results and the ability to fully utilize it.”  


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 and on Twitter @SPARC_NA.