Magazine article Information Today

A Potential OA Policy for U.S. Agencies

Magazine article Information Today

A Potential OA Policy for U.S. Agencies

Article excerpt

The Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA), also known as S. 1373, caused a great deal of excitement in the open access (OA) world when it was introduced by Sens. Joseph Lieberman, Ind.-Conn., and John Cornyn, R-Texas, in 2006.

In the document, the original bill says it would "require every federal department and agency with an annual extramural research budget of $100 million or more to make their research available to the public." But then, the focal point of attention turned to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) when the agency bundled its own OA deposit mandate into its budget as part of the ominbus spending bill passed in December of that year. Although the bill passed, it received opposition from the Bush administration and many (but certainly not all) academic and research publishers. Interest in the FRPAA bill lagged as a result of the interest generated by the NIH proposal. Then, once the NIH proposal passed, attention turned to how well the NIH proprosal would do once implemented.

This bipartisan bill was reintroduced by Lieberman and Cornyn on June 25. Much like the original bill, it requires that "11 U.S. government agencies with annual extramural research expenditures over $100 million make manuscripts of journal articles stemming from research funded by that agency publicly available via the Internet. The manuscripts will be maintained and preserved in a digital archive maintained by the agency or in another suitable repository that permits free public access, interoperability, and long-term preservation. Each manuscript will be freely available to users without charge within six months after it has been published in a peer-reviewed journal."

The 11 agencies involved are the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Defense, the Department of Education, the Department of Energy, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Transportation, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the National Science Foundation.

New Factors in Its Favor

Several factors suggest that this bill will have an easier time passing now than in 2006. The NIH made the depository a success, and it can now offer a viable model for other agencies. What has also changed from 2006 is the commitment of President Obama and his call for a more open government. And the fact that Obama is also the most technology-driven president in our history certainly helps. According to Peter Suber, author of the SPARC Open Access Newsletter, "In July 2009, President Obama nominated Francis Collins to be the next Director of the NIH. If confirmed by the Senate, Collins will be the most experienced defender of OA ever to take the reins of a federal agency. He will end the leadership vacuum at the NIH, now in its 10th month, and already has good relations with Congress. His support for FRPAA and opposition to the Conyers bill--anticipated but not yet public--could make all the difference."

Of course, we cannot forget the role that the world economic downturn (as much as we would like to forget about it) has in the current decision making. This makes it clear that in scholarly communication, we can't keep on living as we have been living. …

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