New house and senate bills, and White House memo, call for open public access to publications and data resulting from federally funded research

If a new White House memo directing government agencies to ensure that publications and data resulting from federally funded research seems familiar, that’s because it nearly matches a new bill that was introduced in the House and Senate just a week earlier.

On February 22, 2013, the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy issued a memo directing U.S. government agencies who annually fund over $100 million in research to implement a plan for requiring public access to data and publications resulting from that research.

The memo requires that each plan included elements for:

  • improving public access to digital data sets created with federal research funds;
  • ensuring that the public can read, download and analyze final peer-reviewed manuscripts and published documents without charge after a twelve-month embargo period;
  • implementing the publication requirements through conditions on awards, guidance and regulations.

The White House memo contains many elements that are similar to the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), a bipartisan bill that was introduced in the House and Senate in mid-February. According to a press release from FASTR co-sponsor Mike Doyle (D-PA):

“This bill will give the American people greater access to the important scientific research results they’ve paid for.  Supporting greater collaboration among researchers in the sciences will accelerate scientific innovation and discovery, while giving the public a greater return on their scientific investment.

Both the White House memo and the FASTR bill acknowledge that their directives must be balanced with researchers’ copyright and other intellectual property rights. For example, the White House memo states that agency plans should describe procedures to prevent the mass redistribution of scholarly publications, as well as protect confidentiality and personal privacy in data sets.

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