Does the White House OA directive make FASTR irrelevant?

If you’ve been following the national open access news, you probably noticed that the White House’s directive to federal agencies to implement open access policies was announced very shortly after the FASTR open access bill was introduced.  And you probably wondered about the relationship of the directive to FASTR. Does the directive make FASTR irrelevant? Does FASTR make the directive unnecessary? No, says open access expert Peter Suber: “The two approaches complement one another.”

Here are a few highlights from Suber’s excellent clarification of the relationship between the directive and FASTR:

  • “FASTR does not make the White House directive unnecessary. FASTR may never be adopted. And if it is adopted, it will be after some time for study, education, lobbying, amendment, negotiation, and debate. By contrast, the White House directive takes effect today.”
  • “Similarly, the White House directive does not make FASTR unnecessary. On the contrary, we need legislation to codify federal OA policies. The next president could rescind today’s White House directive, but could not rescind legislation.”
  • “Both ask a wide range of federal funding agencies to require OA for the results of the research they fund. But the new directive applies to more agencies. . . . FASTR applies to about 11 agencies and the directive to about 19. Among the agencies omitted by FASTR but covered by the directive are USAid and the Smithsonian Institution.”
  • “Both put a limit on permissible embargoes, but the directive allows longer embargoes. FASTR caps embargos at six months, and the directive caps them at 12 months.”
  • “FASTR is silent on data, but the White House directive requires OA for articles (Section 3) and OA for data (Section 4).”

On its own, the White House directive is fantastic.  Combined with FASTR, it can be much, much better.

So, no, they don’t make each other irrelevant.

And, yes, please keep doing everything you can do to increase FASTR’s chances of success.  The Alliance for Taxpayer Access explains how.


Obama + OA = ObamA!

OA advocates now have a major new ally: the Obama administration!

Remember that “We the People” petition in support of open access I urged you to sign? Well, it (along with other efforts) worked!  The White House responded yesterday with the following statement.  (The TL;DR version: The administration is directing all federal agencies that fund more than $100M in research to develop plans to make resulting research articles open access within 12 months of publication.  In other words: a huge expansion of the NIH open access mandate.  Also: almost exactly what FASTR asks for!)

Increasing Public Access to the Results of Scientific Research

By Dr. John Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

Thank you for your participation in the We the People platform. The Obama Administration agrees that citizens deserve easy access to the results of research their tax dollars have paid for. As you may know, the Office of Science and Technology Policy has been looking into this issue for some time and has reached out to the public on two occasions for input on the question of how best to achieve this goal of democratizing the results of federally-funded research. Your petition has been important to our discussions of this issue.

The logic behind enhanced public access is plain. We know that scientific research supported by the Federal Government spurs scientific breakthroughs and economic advances when research results are made available to innovators. Policies that mobilize these intellectual assets for re-use through broader access can accelerate scientific breakthroughs, increase innovation, and promote economic growth. That’s why the Obama Administration is committed to ensuring that the results of federally-funded scientific research are made available to and useful for the public, industry, and the scientific community.

Moreover, this research was funded by taxpayer dollars. Americans should have easy access to the results of research they help support.

To that end, I have issued a memorandum today (.pdf) to Federal agencies that directs those with more than $100 million in research and development expenditures to develop plans to make the results of federally-funded research publically available free of charge within 12 months after original publication. As you pointed out, the public access policy adopted by the National Institutes of Health has been a great success. And while this new policy call does not insist that every agency copy the NIH approach exactly, it does ensure that similar policies will appear across government.

As I mentioned, these policies were developed carefully through extensive public consultation. We wanted to strike the balance between the extraordinary public benefit of increasing public access to the results of federally-funded scientific research and the need to ensure that the valuable contributions that the scientific publishing industry provides are not lost. This policy reflects that balance, and it also provides the flexibility to make changes in the future based on experience and evidence. For example, agencies have been asked to use a 12-month embargo period as a guide for developing their policies, but also to provide a mechanism for stakeholders to petition the agency to change that period. As agencies move forward with developing and implementing these polices, there will be ample opportunity for further public input to ensure they are doing the best possible job of reconciling all of the relevant interests.

In addition to addressing the issue of public access to scientific publications, the memorandum requires that agencies start to address the need to improve upon the management and sharing of scientific data produced with Federal funding. Strengthening these policies will promote entrepreneurship and jobs growth in addition to driving scientific progress. Access to pre-existing data sets can accelerate growth by allowing companies to focus resources and efforts on understanding and fully exploiting discoveries instead of repeating basic, pre-competitive work already documented elsewhere. For example, open weather data underpins the forecasting industry and provides great public benefits, and making human genome sequences publically available has spawned many biomedical innovations—not to mention many companies generating billions of dollars in revenues and the jobs that go with them. Going forward, wider availability of scientific data will create innovative economic markets for services related to data curation, preservation, analysis, and visualization, among others.

So thank you again for your petition. I hope you will agree that the Administration has done its homework and responded substantively to your request.

Hungry to learn more?  Here’s an article from the New York Times and a reaction from SPARC.  And my inarticulate Saturday morning reaction: !!!!!!!!!!

Heliocentrism, not Geocentrism, in Scholarly Communication

We tend a bit CUNY-centric over here at the Open Access @ CUNY blog.  We at CUNY certainly stand to benefit from prevalent (or, better yet, universal) open access to scholarly publications, but we can’t forget that we’re advocating open access for the benefit of all, not just those at CUNY.

Here is an excellent reminder of why everyone needs access to scholarly literature. Not just faculty, not just students, not just doctors, not just high-level researchers.  From Jack Andraka, the high school student who developed a fantastically accurate, quick, and inexpensive method detecting pancreatic cancer:

I was 14 and didn’t drive and it seemed impossible to go to a University and request access to journals.

Some adults have told me I should have done that but, as a 14 year old, it was intimidating. It was also hard to get my parents to drive me to a University library since they didn’t really believe in my project and were trying to convince me to change projects! So there are a lot of barriers for kids to learn more and educate themselves. Open access would help people like me who may not drive or have access to a University library.

In our conversations about open access, we must remember that CUNY revolves around scholarly communication, not the other way around.

Follow the light.