Public Access Mandates
The concept of public access mandates is based on the premise that government funded research results should be freely available without barriers to taxpayers who provide support for the funding. Research results are typically disseminated in the form of manuscripts (journal articles) published in subscription-based journals. Many of these manuscripts are now available in electronic format via the Internet, which provides an ideal mechanism for widespread sharing of research results. However, many of these electronic journals are beyond the reach of public taxpayers and libraries due to cost and publisher-imposed licensing restrictions. Supporters of public access mandates argue that it is unfair for taxpayers who underwrite the funding of the research to be expected to pay again for access to the results of that research.
Proponents for public access mandates assert that sharing of vital scientific discoveries leads to innovation, increases the impact of research, expands the visibility of scientists, accelerates discovery of research findings, leads to new cures, and provides for the transfer of research knowledge to clinical applications. One organization that advocates access to federally funded research is The Alliance for Taxpayer Access. Opponents of public access mandates assert that the model would cause harm to the publishing industry, poses copyright issues and compromises the peer review process. One organization that has expressed concerns about public access mandates is the Partnership for Research Integrity in Science and Medicine.
Proposed Public Access Mandates
Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR)
The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR) was first introduced in 2013. It was co-sponsored in the Senate by Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) and in the House of Representatives by Reps. Doyle (D-PA), Yoder (R-KS), and Lofgren (D-CA). The bill would require that US Government agencies with annual extramural research expenditures of over $100 million make manuscripts of journal articles stemming from research funded by that agency freely accessible and reusable via the Internet.
For the most current information on FASTR, consult:
- Alliance for Taxpayers Access FASTR update
- Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition FAQ for the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR)
- Harvard Open Access Project's Notes on the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act
Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA)
The Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA) was first introduced in 2006 by Senators Cornyn and Lieberman and would require that eleven U.S. government agencies with annual extramural research expenditures over $100 million make manuscripts of journal articles stemming from research funded by that agency publicly available via digital archives maintained by the agency or other suitable repository within six months of publication. This amounts to more than half of the research in scientific journals and about 30% of the research in clinical journals. In 2006, Congress adjourned without voting on FRPAA. FRPAA was introduced to the Senate in 2009 and in the House in April 2010.
For the most current information on FRPAA, consult:
Enacted Public Access Mandates
Section 527 of Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014
The bill, passed January 17, 2014, requires federal agencies under the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education portion of the Omnibus bill with research budgets of $100 million or more to provide the public with online access to articles reporting on federally funded research no later than 12 months after publication in a peer-reviewed journal.
Increasing Access to the Results of Federally Funded Scientific Research
In a policy memorandum dated 22 February 2013, the Executive Office of the President/Office of Science and Technology Support (OSTP) Director John Holdren has directed Federal agencies with more than $100M in R&D expenditures to develop plans to make the published results of federally funded research freely available to the public within one year of publication and requiring researchers to better account for and manage the digital data resulting from federally funded scientific research.
NIH Public Access Policy
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is the only U.S. governmental agency that currently has a mandatory policy on public access, first enacted on voluntary basis in May 2005, and mandatory as of April 2008. The NIH Policy on Enhancing Public Access to Archived Publications Resulting from NIH-Funded Research stipulates that peer reviewed manuscripts should be submitted to PubMed Central (PMC), a public digital repository, upon acceptance of publication to be made fully available within 12 months of publication. This policy allows the general public barrier-free access to a stable and permanent repository of research without a requiring a subscription to a journal.
CIHR Policy on Access to Research Outputs
Canada’s Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) recently enacted a new policy, Policy on Access to Research Outputs, effective as of January 2008 that requires all research papers generated from CIHR-funded projects to be freely accessible through publishers’ web sites or an online repository within six months of publication. At this time there is no central repository model similar to PubMed Central but CIHR and the Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information (CISTI) are planning development of a PubMed Central International (PMCI) Canada repository site.
Howard Hughes Medical Institute Public Access to Publications
Non-federal organizations that provide funding for biomedical research are also promoting the concept of the right to access to scientific knowledge as a public good. One example is the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), in the U.S. In June of 2007, HHMI announced that effective January 2008, it will “require its scientists to publish their original research articles in scientific journals that allow the articles and supplementary materials to be made freely accessible in a public repository within six months of publication.” (HHMI Release on Public Access to Publications) An acceptable public repository is PubMed Central, NIH’s digital repository. This new policy expands upon the existing policies that require HHMI scientists/authors to share databases, published research, and software. To assist authors in complying with the policy, HHMI provides a listing of publishers containing information about publisher policies and author responsibilities, Journal Publisher Policy Resource.
In October of 2013, HHMI revised the policy by extending the embargo period from six to 12 months: ". . . the publication must be available through PubMed Central as soon as reasonably possible, and in any event within twelve months of publication. Publications in journals in other scientific fields should be deposited in a comparable repository if one is available. Supplementary materials should be made available along with the publication." The revised policy is effective as of November 1, 2013.
Autism Speaks Policy on Public Access
Autism Speaks is a non-federal organization that provides funding for biomedical research in order to better understand the causes of autism and to advance its prevention, treatment and cure. In promotion of understanding and sharing knowledge about the causes of autism, Autism Speaks implemented a public access mandate, Policy on Public Access to the Research We Fund. The policy stipulates that all peer-reviewed works supported in whole or in part by Autism Speaks grants awarded after December 3, 2008 must be made available in PubMed Central. Authors are to submit a copy of the peer-reviewed manuscript to PubMed Central upon acceptance of publication with the full text to be available no later than 12 months after the official date of publication.
Institute of Education Sciences Public Access Policy
The policy of the Institute of Education Sciences is as follows:
Recipients of awards are expected to publish or otherwise make publicly available the results of the work supported through this program. Institute-funded investigators should submit final, peer-reviewed manuscripts resulting from research supported in whole or in part by the Institute to the Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC, http://eric.ed.gov) upon acceptance for publication. An author's final manuscript is defined as the final version accepted for journal publication, and includes all graphics and supplemental materials that are associated with the article. The Institute will make the manuscript available to the public through ERIC no later than 12 months after the official date of publication. Institutions and investigators are responsible for ensuring that any publishing or copyright agreements concerning submitted articles fully comply with this requirement.
Research Councils UK Policy on Open Access
The policy of the Research Councils UK is as follows:
...will apply to all qualifying publications being submitted for publication from 1 April 2013, states that peer reviewed research papers which result from research that is wholly or partially funded by the Research Councils ... must be published in journals which are compliant with Research Council policy on Open Access ... Criteria which journals must fulfill to be compliant with the Research Councils' Open Access policy ... include offering a "pay to publish" option or allowing deposit in a subject or institutional repository after a mandated maximum embargo period ...Research Councils will accept a delay of no more than six months between on-line publication and a research paper becoming Open Access, except in the case of research papers arising from research funded by the AHRC and the ESRC where the maximum embargo period is 12 months ...