Open Access Bills Stage A Return Engagement

For the fifth consecutive Congress bills have been introduced to extend open access to government-funded research results.  In the last month three bills have been introduced, resembling bills introduced in previous years.

For the 114th Congress there are House and Senate versions of the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR).  Essentially the same bills were introduced in the 113th Congress with the same sponsors and the same terms.  Previous editions of these two bills were under a different name – the Federal Research Public Access Act.  The bills are assigned to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, respectively.  The bills would require open access to federally funded research articles within six months of publication.

Another open access bill in this Congress is the latest edition of the Public Access to Public Science Act.  It too was introduced in the previous Congress, and has the same sponsors this time around.  Compared to the FASTR bills, this act covers a smaller set of agencies (those under the jurisdiction of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee), and hews closer to the requirements of the February 2013 Policy Memo from the Office of Science and Technology on open access.  Like the FASTR bills, this legislation requires open access for covered articles within six months of publication.

With nearly 10 years of legislative efforts to expand open access, I’m not optimistic that these bills will be much more successful than their predecessors.  A major difference in this Congress is that agency public access policies are in the process of final review and/or implementation.  (The difference in embargo periods between these bills and agency access policies is not likely a bill-killer, at least by itself.)  That might help get these bills out of committee, but I think it will take stronger effort by their legislative champions to get them to the President’s desk.

Then there’s the matter of open access to research data, which is not covered by these bills.  Baby steps, I suppose.

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