White House promises open access to all federally funded research

Jim Dezazzo sez, John Holdren, Obama's science advisor, issued a directive on Friday to all research funding agencies to develop plans to make the results of federally-funded research publically available free of charge within 12 months of publication. It also requires that scientists receiving taxpayer dollars to improve upon the management and sharing of scientific data. This is huge! By my rough calculation, that means that approximately 20 US agencies will now make the science they fund available to the public. This is all in response to a We The People petition I signed over the summer (along with 65k other people)."


  1. Fuck yeah!   I only hope that the publishers’ lobbyists don’t somehow manage to sink this before it happens. The next step is to retroactively put every study that has ever been funded with tax dollars in the public domain. If Elsevier et al want to keep the copyrights, make them pay for all the grant money that went to produce the papers.

    1.  Getting works back from the publishers where the copyright assignment has already been assigned is not going to happen.  Not at least until the statutory period for termination of assignments occurs, 35 or 56 years (depending on when the work was created) after publication.

  2. This had already been established policy for several years for the National Institutes of Health, which funds most life sciences research in the US, and which has been making all research funded by them publicly available after 12 months post-publication via Pub Med Central. You can read all 2.6 million free articles here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/

    1. The NIH funds most US medically-oriented life-science, yes, but that’s different from funding most life-science, as most life-scientists work on things that aren’t diseases. Somehow people like Stephen O’Brien get their cheetah research done at the NCI (part of the NIH), but most basic biologists in the US are funded by the NSF.

      1. NIH funds tons of basic biology. A large portion of the research done in Cell Biology, Biochemistry, Genetics, Pharmacology, Physiology, Neurobiology, Bioinformatics, Biostatistics, Immunology and Molecular Biology fields receives funding from NIH. This does exclude ecology, evolution, plant biology, etc. 

        1. Well…sort of. But they still kind of need to be tied to something medical. For example, NIH may fund a bioinformatics proposal to create some comparative genomics tool — but not just for the sake of basic science itself — you’d have to justify it by saying it would help people create vaccines or something. I’m a microbial genomicist/bioinformatican and sometimes (like in the service of the Human Microbiome Project) I can get NIH funding, but studying microbes from the polar regions and other things like that I work on are NSF funded and would be hard to justify in any other way.

          1. Your numbers are way off: the current NIH budget is about 30ish billion, versus the NSF’s 7ish billion.  

            That 7+ billion of NSF is for EVERYTHING from comp sci to math to security to geology etc.From http://www.the-aps.org/mm/SciencePolicy/Funding/Proposed-FY-2013-Budget-for-Research.html”However, the Biological Sciences (BIO) Directorate’s increase is only 3% ($21.5 million) for a total budget of $733.8 million.”
            So the NIH gets about 40 times the NSF’s bio funding… even if you assume only a fraction of that spending is direct bio (which I would argue is incorrect), the NIH has way more money.

  3. I am a scientist and regularly publish. One would think that this would be a matter of course, but the publishers resist. People don’t realize that scientists find funding for their research (some through federal grants), then do most of the final formatting for journals, and then pay publication costs. It is routine for publishers to require that copyrights for articles be assigned to them. Publishers then charge the scientist an additional fee for the right to obtain a ‘personal copy’ of their article (stamped as an ‘author’s copy’) that allows them to post the article on the scientist’s or an institutional website. Many of us are moving to open access journals, but open journals being relatively new can lack the ‘prestige’ of traditional journals. A scientist must publish in the ‘best’ journals (read prestigious) possible for job security. It is a strange system. I hope it changes. 

    1. You’re also expected to buy a bunch to supply complimentary copies to send to the flood of other academics in your field who request them. One tends to be optimistic in the number of reprints one buys.

  4. I’m still bitter and angry. The biggest revision (in 1974) to the Privacy Act, Title 5, U.S.C. 552a, (which is a Federal Law my colleagues) dealt with paperwork reduction!  This needs more attention. Now! And for those who aren’t my colleagues: I hope we can be friends. Transparency is addressed in this (and other) Laws…

    1. Yup. That’s more like it.  Mealy mouthed bullshit. Gives agencies the ability to wait more than a year if they want to, or keep it embargoed permanently for national or economic security.   Which, since even the paywalled versions are available to researchers in other countries at institutions with subscriptions, is obviously code for “Oh yeah, we’ll give this some lip service, but the lobbyists still have more money than you, so we’re gonna keep on with corrupt business as usual.”

        1. I was focused more on the “timid” part but I suppose you could say they’ve been imaginative way they’ve skirted the Constitution in the name of “fighting terrorism”

    2. “Still, whatever one thinks of the order, the White House clearly saw the need to address increased calls for public access to scientific research. Those calls have gained new attention in the wake of the suicide of open access advocate and programmer Aaron Swartz in January, just months before he was due to stand trail on federal charges of computer fraud for downloading 4.8 million articles from the paid JSTOR database without proper access.”
      I thought that Aaron had ‘proper access’ to JSTOR, but he used the access in a novel way, which is what upset everybody in the first place?

    3. “…but critics want more”

      That’s it, don’t let anything penetrate your protective shell of ill-considered cynicism!  Positive developments, unless radical and completely in accordance with your whims are to be scorned and criticized.

      That article has withering critiques, such as “My concerns are that it’s completely lame…,”

      And apparently the decision will involve bureaucracy in some fashion that has not been yet determined by said bureaucracy.  Oh the horror.Have you heard of this term called “government”?

  5. However great or feeble this is we can only dream of something like this in Canada.  Here no publicly funded scientist can speak to any media representative without a Political Officer being present and all press releases and other publications must first go through the Central Committee for re-writes to eliminate any deviations from the Official Reality.

    1. Note to all: The above comment is not hyperbole or extravagance, this is seriously what happens. All federal scientific interaction with the press/public must first funnel through the Prime Ministers Office. The PMO has been growing for decades, but under the Harper Government has come to resemble the total cliche of a totalitarian information bureau.

    1.  Presumably this requires no funding other than the research grant. This is more like a mandate that a researcher’s agreement with the publisher conform to certain norms/contain language granting the material to the public domain after a year.  It remains to be seen whether publisher will push back by refusing to publish articles with that condition.  Which they didn’t do when NIH came up with a similar requirement, instead choosing to lobby congress to ban those sorts of conditions.  Which almost worked.

  6. Develop plans… isn’t that code for pretend your doing something until the new season of American Idol distracts them.

  7. Watch for big pharma and other major medical research funding to move from public institutions (where the research might be ‘tainted’ by public money & therefore required to be publically disclosed) into privately-funded-only research institutions where it can be kept safely locked away.

  8. Is this *all* research, or just *scientific* research? Because, it’d be kinda sweet if public ally funded humanities journal articles, research, and the like we’re opened up too.

    1. Because “Reimagining the nexus of power and magic in Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” as a disruptive view of surfboard colonialism” wants to be free…

  9. In before the cynical hater trolls!

    Oh shoot.  Too late.
    Everyone, go read Nadreck’s comment.  Then try and consider a rational process of balancing the positive and negative developments of this decision.Oh, who am I kidding, this is the BoingBoing comment thread.

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