Summary: To provide for Federal agencies to develop public access policies relating to research conducted by employees of that agency or from funds administered by that agency. (More Info)
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Referred to House Oversight and Government Reform (Feb 14, 2013)
This bill was assigned to a congressional committee on February 14, 2013, which will consider it before possibly sending it on to the House or Senate as a whole. The majority of bills never make it past this point.
FEBRUARY 15, 2013
Internet users around the world got a Valentine's Day present yesterday in the form of new legislation that requires U.S. government agencies to improve public access to federally funded research.
The proposed mandate, called the Fair Access to Science & Technology Research Act, or FASTR (PDF), is simple. Agencies like the National Science Foundation, which invests millions of taxpayer dollars in scientific research every year, must design and implement a plan to facilitate public access to—and robust reuse of—the results of that investment. The contours of the plans are equally simple: researchers who receive funding from most federal agencies must submit a copy of any resulting journal articles to the funding agency, which will then make that research freely available to the world within six months.
Compare that to the traditional system, which gives journal publishers substantial control over access to academic work, even though they don't pay a dime in exchange to the authors who do the research, the peer-reviewers who vet the research, or the institutions that help make it possible. Those publishers will doubtless oppose the bill, but it is their own decision to continually raise the bar to access that is driving support for the legislation. For example, subscription prices have outpaced inflation by over 250 percent in the past 30 years, forcing university libraries to pick and choose between journal subscriptions. The result: students and citizens have difficulty accessing information they need; professors have a harder time reviewing and teaching the state of the art; and cutting-edge research is often hidden behind paywalls.
The proposed changes reflect but also improve upon National Institutes of Health’s public access policy. Under that policy, all research—oftentimes critical medical research—is made available online a year after publication. FASTR reduces the “embargo” period to six months and mandates stronger reuse requirements.
The bill isn't perfect. For example, it doesn’t require open licensing, the obvious next step. However, the bill does require agencies to examine “whether such research papers should include a royalty-free copyright license that is available to the public and that permits the reuse of those research papers, on the condition that attribution is given.” Such a license would allow for complete reuse of published research, including in downstream research or computational meta-analysis.
FASTR also excludes "research resulting in works that generate revenue or royalties for authors (such as books) or patentable discoveries, to the extent necessary to protect a copyright or patent." We're worried how courts – and publishers—will interpret this clause, If a publisher decides to pay authors $100 per article, is the research excluded from public access? We hope not.
Shortcomings aside, this legislation is an important step forward. Public access to taxpayer-funded research is vital to the progress of science, education, and transparency—and FASTR goes a long way toward making that happen, at least for future works. (Next up: freeing up the knowledge not covered by this legislation, such as journal articles long-since published.) The bill is co-sponsored by Senators Cornyn (R-TX) and Wyden (D-OR) and Representatives Doyle (D-PA), Yoder (R-KS), and Lofgren (D-CA). Contact your representatives today and tell them to support FASTR .
* This organization’s position on this bill was entered by POPVOX.
The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), introduced today in both the House and the Senate, represents an important step forward in the legislative progression toward the goal of Open Access to publicly funded research. Based on the framework laid out by the highly successful NIH Public Access Policy, (as well as the previously-proposed Federal Research Public Access Act) the bill proposes terms and conditions that fully enable digital reuse of publicly funded research articles - as well as calling for their timely, barrier-free availability.
FASTR hones in on federal science agencies, applying to only those with annual extramural research expenditures of $100 million or more. The bill calls for manuscripts of journal articles resulting from publicly funded research to be made freely available online to the public through a digital archive maintained or designated by the agency that permits free public access to those manuscripts, enables their robust reuse, and ensures their interoperability and long-term preservation.
Fittingly introduced on the day that marks the start of the Open Access Movement (today is the 11th anniversary of the release of the Budapest Open Access Initiative BOAI), the bipartisan FASTR Act challenges U.S. policymakers to think not only about the accessibility of publicly funded articles, but also to consider the importance of maximizing their utility in the digital environment – the twin pillars of the BOAI definition of Open Access.
Along with a strong emphasis on the need to leverage the power of the Internet to share articles resulting from federally funded scientific research broadly and quickly (the text suggests a maximum embargo period of 6 months), the proposed bill underscores the value of reuse, and includes in its findings that Congress notes that:
“The United States has a substantial interest in maximizing the impact of the research it funds by enabling a wide range of reuses of the peer-reviewed literature reporting the results of such research, including by enabling automated analysis by state-of-the-art technologies.”
To support this finding, FASTR calls for affected agencies to require articles be provided in formats and under terms that ensure researchers have the ability to freely apply cutting-edge analysis tools and technologies to the full collection of digital articles resulting from public funding.
This is a crucial step. As the volume of research information increases, with a mind-boggling 1.5 million research articles published each year, no person can realistically hope to make full sense of this information by simply accessing and reading individual articles on their own. We must enable computers as a new category of reader to help power through this volume, thousands of articles at a time, and to highlight patterns, links, and associations that would otherwise go undiscovered. Computational tools like text mining and data mining are crucial to achieving this, and have the potential to revolutionize the research process.
This is an important and timely consideration, and one well worth taking the time to educate all policymakers, researchers, and members of the public about. The recent tragedy of Aaron Swartz, arrested for allegedly downloading massive amounts of journal articles, effectively highlighted the need for policies that promote not only better access to journal articles but also provide users the ability to work with them in new ways. Today, digital articles are essentially stored as data, and we should enable all users to treat them as such.
The introduction of FASTR is an opportunity for us to take a giant collective step in this very important direction.
Thanks to the Congressional sponsors of FASTR - Sens. Cornyn (R-TX) and Wyden (D-OR) and Reps. Doyle (D-PA), Yoder (R-KS) and Lofgren (D-CA) for their leadership on this crucial issue.
Today (February 14, 2013), Senators Cornyn (R-TX) and Wyden (D-OR) and Representatives Doyle (D-PA), Yoder (R-KS), and Lofgren (D-CA) introduced the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research (FASTR) Act, a bill that will accelerate scientific discovery and fuel innovation by making articles reporting on publicly funded scientific research freely accessible online for anyone to read and build upon.
Every year, the federal government funds over sixty billion dollars in basic and applied research. Most of this funding is concentrated within 11 departments/agencies (e.g., National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Science Foundation (NSF), and Department of Energy). This research results in a significant number of articles being published each year – approximately 90,000 papers are published annually as result of NIH funding alone.
Because U.S. taxpayers underwrite this research, they have a right to expect that its dissemination and use will be maximized, and that they will have access to articles reporting on the results. The Internet has revolutionized information sharing and has made it possible to make the latest advances freely available to every researcher, student, teacher, entrepreneur, business owner and citizen so that the results can be read and built upon as efficiently as possible.
FASTR will make these articles freely available for all potential users to read and ensure that articles can be fully used in the digital environment, enabling the use of new computational analysis tools that promise to revolutionize the research process.
FASTR will accelerate science, fuel innovation, and improve the lives and welfare of Americans and those around the world. This is an achievable goal – today. Now is the time to push for this groundbreaking legislation, and let Congress know that the public deserves access to the research that they paid for.
February 14, 2013 — Calling it “different name, same boondoggle,” the Association of American Publishers said today that the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research (FASTR) Act is unnecessary and a waste of federal resources.
The bill revives the majority of the terms set out in the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA), which was introduced without further action in each of the last three Congresses. It would require federal agencies to undertake extensive, open-ended work already being performed successfully by the private sector. It would add significant, unspecified, ongoing costs to those agencies’ budgets in the midst of ongoing federal deficit reduction efforts. Finally, it would undermine publishers’ efforts to provide access to high-quality peer-review research publications in a sustainable way, while ignoring progress made by agencies collaborating with publishers to improve funding transparency.
“This bill would waste so much taxpayers’ money at a time of budgetary crisis, squander federal employees’ time with busywork and require the creation and maintenance of otherwise-unneeded technology,” said Allan Adler, General Counsel and Vice President, Government Affairs, AAP, “all the while ignoring the fact that its demands are already being performed successfully by the private sector.”
AAP also noted:
The bill ignores crucial distinctions among federal agencies and scientific disciplines and would attempt to shoehorn every group into a one-size-fits-all mandate on publication methods and embargo periods.
FASTR disregards what is being accomplished through public-private partnerships and agency collaborations such as the CrossRef "FundRef" pilot to standardize funding source information for scholarly publications
The bill would require agencies to undertake extensive new duties and reporting requirements while also requiring them to invest in new taxpayer-funded technology resources and systems. FASTR would demand that federal agencies’ staffs develop and implement processes to collect materials, create and permanently maintain redundant digital repositories — resources that are currently in place — and fulfill new government requirements for studies and analyses.
Adler added, “Such systems and protocols are already in place, functioning effectively. Researchers should not be required to duplicate what’s available to them and taxpayers shouldn’t be stuck footing the bill for it too.”
* This organization’s position on this bill was entered by POPVOX.
A blanket, open-access policy may not be the best for all scientific publishers. Furthermore, the 6-month deadline proposed in this Act is arbitrary, and further study is required to find the best time to release data to the public at minimal harm to the publisher.
More Info: Open Access/Peer Review
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