The new Omnibus Appropriations Bill, which Congress passed yesterday, contains an important — and fantastic — provision: it requires that scientific research funded by the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education be placed in a free online repository within 12 months of their publication in a peer-reviewed journal.
There are some caveats (this only covers research from agencies with budgets of $100M or more) and it could have been better (immediate publication and all work placed in the pubic domain), but this is still a major stride forward. To be frank, it's well beyond what I'd hoped we'd get from Congress, who are traditionally more than willing to let private firms wall away pubic access from the research that tax-payers fund.
Here's the inside dirt from the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Adi Kamdar:
This is big. Previously, the National Institutes of Health was the only government agency with a statutory public access mandate. Last year, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) made moves in this direction by requiring agencies with similar research budgets to formulate, and eventually implement, their own public access policies. While the OSTP memorandum was a heartening step in the right direction, ultimately these crucial practices must be set down in the law, so they cannot be decimated at the whim of a future presidential administration.
Having another public access law on the books is surely cause for celebration—and hats off to all of those who have been fighting the open access fight—but we shouldn't stop here. Ultimately, we want to make sure that the public has full access to taxpayer funded research.
The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR) would go beyond the provisions laid out in the Omnibus bill by mandating a six-month embargo until research funded by a larger number of departments and agencies is made publicly available online.
Contact your members of Congress today and tell them to support FASTR.