Background and Aims

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Background and aims
Public funding of scientific, technical and medical (STM) research is undertaken with the expectation that the economic and social returns to taxpayers will exceed the amount of the research investment. Because discovery is a cumulative process, with new knowledge building on earlier findings, the dissemination of research findings is crucial to ensuring that the returns on the investment are realized.

Traditionally, journals have been one of the primary channels for research dissemination. With the emergence of the Internet, it became possible to expand the sharing of research findings and thus to better serve scientists as well as the “long tail” of other potential users – such as educators and students, health clinicians and patients, businesses and the general public. It is now technically feasible to put knowledge to use far beyond the limited universe served by traditional toll-access or subscription journals. It is also possible for knowledge – research articles and other research outputs – to be used and integrated in new ways that further advance public purposes.

Responding to these opportunities, a growing number of public and private funders have implemented policies mandating deposit of their funded research outputs in open online archives, making it freely available to anyone with Internet access. While there is ample anecdotal evidence of the benefits of such policies, the extent of the resulting leverage or its relationship to costs has rarely been measured. As the availability of cost-benefit measures and quantitative data would inform public policymaking, this project seeks to identify metrics for demonstrating the return on investment in open access dissemination of publicly funded research. We outline one possible approach and identify areas in which further data collection is needed. This is intended to define and scope the data collection requirements and further model developments necessary to produce a more robust estimate of the potential impacts of an archiving mandate for publicly funded research outputs, such as the proposed Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA).

The following sections outline the model and data sources used for preliminary estimates. These estimates are based on the information available to us at the time of writing. They are released in conjunction with an online model, which enables others to explore their own preferred values for the various parameters. The model and this report can be found at