Sunday, February 17, 2013

Kudos and thanks to US sponsors of FASTR open access policy - setting the standard!

Update: the White House has directed U.S. federal agencies to go ahead with an approach very similar to this.!!!

Kudos and thanks to U.S. Representatives Zoe Lofgren, Mike Doyle and Kevin Yoder (House) and Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) for introducing the The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR) which

would require federal agencies with annual extramural research budgets of $100 million or more to provide the public with online access to research manuscripts stemming from funded research no later than six months after publication in a peer-reviewed journal.
In my opinion, as a scholar focusing on scholarly communication and open access, this is the approach that I would suggest as a model for funding agencies' open access policies worldwide. This is an excellent example of policy, setting out clearly and succinctly what is required from the funding agencies and the researchers that they fund: free public access to the peer-reviewed results of taxpayer funded research, within 6 months of publication.

One benefit of this policy is that it  ensures that the results of U.S. federally funded research will always be available for public access, by demanding that results of research are housed in the U.S., and addressing preservation.

Technical matters such as addressing best practices for re-use are left to each department to sort out. This is wise, because while the overall guidance provided by this policy is historic in nature, the technology will continue to evolve and so these matters are best addressed at the agency level by regulation and education. For example, the bill mentions open licensing while my advice is that the departments should consider the goals of re-use and whether licensing per se is sufficient to meet the goals, or whether other approaches such as developing standards for formats and metadata to facilitate re-use are more to the point.

The leadership of the U.S. of the past few years in this area, particularly the National Institute of Health's Public Access policy, has been key to inspiring the movement towards open access around the world. In Canada alone, 13 funding agencies have already developed similar policies, primarily in the health area. I anticipate that U.S. leadership in broadening the mandate across all federal funding agencies will inspire a similar broadening of open access mandates around the world.

Thanks to the leadership of the NIH, access to the medical literature has expanded in the last few years from access to medical students at the largest and wealthiest universities and a small number of practitioners, to 20% of the world's medical literature now being available to anyone, anywhere with an internet connection. Thanks for this!!!

FASTR will expand the benefits of the NIH Public Access policy to other areas. Educational literature will no longer be restricted to education students at a select few universities; it will be readily available to practicing educators, parents, and educational policy-makers. Entrepreneurs will be able to access the latest in clean energy technologies to develop the next generation of environmentally sustainable businesses.

The U.S. is a leader in the field, but note that the U.S. will not be going this way alone. The global reach of open access can easily be observed through directories such as the Directory of Open Access and the Directory of Open Access Repositories. DOAJ statistics show that there are open access journals published in 121 countries around the world. The OpenDOAR country list shows open access repositories in many countries by continent. Between the two, recognizing some differences in local approach, we can see a rough correspondence between research productivity of the country and open access venues.

About me: I am a librarian with over a decade of experience negotiating purchase of electronic resources for multiple libraries through consortia, and so I am very familiar with the unevenness and inequities of access, even in the developed world. I have developed and taught courses on scholarly communication and open access at the ischool at the University of British Columbia, and published a book, Scholarly Communication for Librarians (Oxford: Chandos, 2009). Last November I completed a doctorate at the Simon Fraser University School of Communication. My dissertation, entitled Freedom for Scholarship in the Internet Age, can be downloaded from here: I have participated in a number of open access policy discussions around the world over the past decade.

Useful inks

Sherpa JULIET: Research funding agencies' open access policies. Features a search by country:

DOAJ statistics

OpenDOAR Country list


Dr. Heather Morrison
Freedom for scholarship in the internet age