U.S. Takes Landmark Action in Opening Access to Publicly Funded Research

U.S. Takes Landmark Action in Opening Access to Publicly Funded Research

Open Access is the free online availability of scholarly research. The Open Access movement has worked for the past decade to provide the public with unrestricted, free access to scholarly research—much of which is publicly funded.

Eleven years after the Open Society Foundations helped to define the field of Open Access, the Obama Administration issued an Executive Directive instructing the largest U.S. funding agencies to provide public access to federally funded research. In February 2002, Open Society launched the Budapest Open Access Initiative, which first defined Open Access as the free online availability of scholarly research. Since that time, Open Society helped to create and support the development of a global movement which advocates for public access to publicly funded research.

On February 22, 2013, the White House directed federal agencies with annual research and development budgets of $100 million or more to provide the public with free online access to the results of that research within one year of publication.

The Directive follows on the heels of new legislation currently making its way through Congress called the Fair Access to Scientific and Technology Research Act (FASTR), which was introduced in the House and Senate on February 14, 2013, the 11th anniversary of the Budapest Open Access Initiative. Importantly, FASTR would reduce the embargo period on research articles from 12 to 6 months and includes language on the reuse of the research materials which is of critical importance to students, academics, small businesses, and all those who wish to build upon this research.

The White House’s actions extend the progress made by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the first U.S. funding agency to require public access to taxpayer-funded research. Since its implementation, the NIH has made more than 90,000 new biomedical manuscripts publicly available each year, giving millions of Americans—and those around the world—access to vital health care information. Demand for this information is extremely high. Each weekday, more than 700,000 unique users access material from PubMed Central, the NIH repository that houses these articles.

In the United States, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), an Open Society grantee, is leading the fight for Open Access. “The White House Directive will accelerate scientific discovery, improve education, and empower entrepreneurs to translate research into commercial ventures and jobs,” commented Heather Joseph, the Executive Director of SPARC. “It’s good for our nation, our economy, and our future.”

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