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Federal Research Public Access Act of 2012 and What It Means for Access to Research Findings

Today, Rep. Michael Doyle (D-PA) introduced the Federal Research Public Access Act of 2012 (FRPAA) (H.R. 4004), which is bipartisan legislation that directs federal agencies to encourage open public access to federally funded scientific research.  In his press release, Rep. Doyle said:

“Americans have the right to see the results of research funded with taxpayer dollars.  Yet such research too often gets locked away behind a pay-wall, forcing those who want to learn from it to pay expensive subscription fees for access. 

The Federal Research Public Access Act will encourage broader collaboration among scholars in the scientific community by permitting widespread dissemination of research findings.  Promoting greater collaboration will inevitably lead to more innovative research outcomes and more effective solutions in the fields of biomedicine, energy, education, and health care.”

What Does the Bill Require?

FRPAA would:

  • Require federal departments and agencies with an annual extramural research budget of $100 million or more, whether funded totally or partially by a government department or agency, to submit an electronic copy of the final manuscript that has been accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. 
  • Ensure that the manuscript is preserved in a stable digital repository maintained by that agency or in another suitable repository that permits free public access, interoperability, and long-term preservation. 
  • Require that each taxpayer-funded manuscript be made available to the public online and without cost, no later than six months after the article has been published in a peer-reviewed journal. 

Why This Bill?

Since 2008, research funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has been subject to its public access policy to ensure that research publications funded by NIH are made publicly available within a year of publication. For almost as long, some members of Congress have been trying to overturn that policy, which some publishers fear will cut into their revenues. The latest effort, the Research Works Act (H.R. 3699), was introduced in January, and would stop federal agencies from doing anything that would result in the sharing of privately published research—even if that research is done with taxpayer dollars—unless the publisher of the work first agrees (See January 27, 2012 blog for further information). 

The FRPAA would shorten the waiting period from a year to six months between publication in a subscription journal and when a paper is made publicly available. It would also expand the scope of the NIH policy by applying it to any federal agency with a budget of $100 million or more.

The bill argues that "the research, if shared and effectively disseminated, will advance science and improve the lives and welfare of people of the United States and around the world."  To that end, each agency will be required to ensure that publication does not interfere with their right to reproduce the paper, and create an online public repository that will house the works once they become publicly available.  Preliminary data, such as lab notes and meeting presentations, classified research, research that results in revenue or royalties for the authors, and patentable discoveries are specifically excluded from this requirement.

Rep. Doyle introduced similar legislation in the 111th Congress, which did not pass.  Identical legislation (S. 2096) is also being introduced in the Senate today by Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX).  

Similarly, the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) recently issued a Request for Information and collected recommendations on approaches to ensure broad public access to federally-funded scientific research (See January 30, 2012 blog for further information).

EDUCAUSE will continue to monitor and report on this issue.

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