White House announces new public access policy for scientific research

February 25, 2013 – All federal agencies that fund more than $100 million in research each year must make the results freely available one year after their publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

The White House announced last week that results of all federally funded scientific research should be made publicly available free of charge 1 year after their initial publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

In a memo released Friday, John Holdren, the director of the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), directed federal agencies that fund more than $100 million of research each year to make plans for the public dissemination of the results of that research.

“Scientific research supported by the federal government catalyzes innovative breakthroughs that drive our economy,” Holdren’s memo says. “The results of that research become the grist for new insights and are assets for progress in areas such as health, energy, the environment, agriculture, and national security.”

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) implemented a similar policy for all of its funded research in 2008. The Department of Energy and National Science Foundation had also been formulating policies of their own over the last year. The new policy will apply to all federal agencies that fund scientific research, although each agency may design its own policy to ensure public access. The agencies have 6 months to present the OSTP with their draft policies.

The Obama Administration’s decision comes after years of planning. The OSTP requested public comment on a proposed public access policy in 2009 and again in 2011. The agency was charged with improving public access to research under a Congressional re-authorization of the America COMPETES Act, in December 2010.

The administration was also responding to increased pressure from the public to expand access to scientific research. A petition posted on the White House’s We the People website last year urged the administration to mandate free access to taxpayer-funded research; as of Friday, the petition had amassed more than 64,000 signatures. In a separate response to that petition, Holdren wrote, “the logic behind enhanced public access is plain. We know that scientific research supported by the federal government spurs scientific breakthroughs and economic advances when research results are made available to innovators.”

Holdren also noted that federal agencies had been tasked with devising methods to improve the management and sharing of taxpayer-funded data.

The White House statement comes a week after the FASTR (Fair Access to Science and Technology Research) bill was introduced in the Congress. That bill would require public access to papers just 6 months after publication.