Magazine article Information Today

Open Government = Open Access?

Magazine article Information Today

Open Government = Open Access?

Article excerpt

Soon after taking office in January 2009, President Obama instructed the Office of Management and Budget to issue an Open Government Directive. The directive, which was "informed by recommendations" from the newly created position of Federal Chief Technology Officer, directed executive departments and agencies "to take specific actions to implement the principles of transparency, participation, and collaboration set forth in the President's Memorandum." Last December, the White House began seeking comments on plans to make federally funded research available for public access.

Through a notice in the Federal Register, the White House laid out a 1-month, three-stage request for information, which closed at the end of January 2010. During the first phase, Implementation, comments focused upon which federal agencies would be good candidates to adopt these policies, as well as the maximum length of time between publication and "public release."

Not surprisingly, the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP is within the Office of the President) has used the model adopted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which requires that all investigators submit an electronic version of their final peer-reviewed manuscript no later than 12 months after the official date of publication.

"The NIH model has a variety of features that can be evaluated, and there are other ways to offer the public enhanced access to peer-reviewed scholarly publications," the OSTP reported in the request for information. "The best models may [be] influenced by agency mission, the culture and rate of scientific development of the discipline, funding to develop archival capabilities, and research funding mechanisms." Increasing public access to articles and data from federally funded research may enhance America's return on its research investment in a number of ways, including making access to scholarly publications more timely, simpler, and cheaper for scientists, according to OSTP, adding that this could also promote further advances in science and technology.

There is great irony in that the Bush administration had attempted to stall this mandate when it was bundled into the Omnibus budget bill that was passed in December 2008 because of intense lobbying from the publishing industry. But it did pass, and the mandate was formalized as a permanent policy under the Obama administration. Even though some sectors of the scholarly publishing industry were sluggish to create policies, the NIH has clarified the four approaches that publishers and/or authors needed to follow in order to comply with the policy.

Clearly the process, and the philosophy, underpinning these actions comes from the commitment of the Obama administration to an open government that is centered on three core values. The first is "transparency," which is defined as providing "citizens with information about what their government is doing so that government can be held accountable." While PubMed Central has definitely increased the public knowledge of how health science research is funded, there is no public equivalent to the physical sciences or any other form of publicly funded research. The Federal Research Public Access Act bill that U.S. Senators John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., reintroduced in June calls every federal department and agency with an annual extramural research budget of $100 million or more to make its research available to the public within 6 months of publication. …

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