Newly Passed Appropriations Bill Makes Even More Publicly Funded Research Available Online

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Just in time for Copyright Week, we're celebrating a huge win for the open access movement. Today, Congress passed the 2014 Omnibus Appropriations Bill. For the most part, it focuses on government spending and budget cuts we've seen covered in the news. But the bill also contains important language (PDF) promoting public access to federally funded research, making sure that taxpayers get a real return their investment.

Specifically, the bill requires federal agencies under the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education with research budgets of $100 million or more to provide the public with online access to articles resulting from federally funded research—all within 12 months of publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

This is big. Previously, the National Institutes of Health was the only government agency with a statutory public access mandate. Last year, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) made moves in this direction by requiring agencies with similar research budgets to formulate, and eventually implement, their own public access policies. While the OSTP memorandum was a heartening step in the right direction, ultimately these crucial practices must be set down in the law, so they cannot be decimated at the whim of a future presidential administration.

Having another public access law on the books is surely cause for celebration—and hats off to all of those who have been fighting the open access fight—but we shouldn't stop here. Ultimately, we want to make sure that the public has full access to taxpayer funded research.

The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR) would go beyond the provisions laid out in the Omnibus bill by mandating a six-month embargo until research funded by a larger number of departments and agencies is made publicly available online.

Contact your members of Congress today and tell them to support FASTR.

The language in the appropriations bill makes it clear that public access is not as far-fetched as the opposition makes it out to be. Let's get access to the research we fund on the books once and for all.

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