Open Access to Scientific Research Advances

Government-sponsored scientific research published in expensive journals should become more readily accessible to the public under an initiative announced by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy on Friday.

Federal agencies that fund at least $100 million per year in scientific research were directed by White House science advisor John Holdren to develop plans to make the results of such research publicly available free of charge within a year of original publication.

“The logic behind enhanced public access is plain,” Dr. Holdren wrote in response to a public petition on the White House web site. “We know that scientific research supported by the Federal Government spurs scientific breakthroughs and economic advances when research results are made available to innovators. Policies that mobilize these intellectual assets for re-use through broader access can accelerate scientific breakthroughs, increase innovation, and promote economic growth.”

But the benefits of open access are not the sole consideration in the new policy.  “The Administration also recognizes that publishers provide valuable services, including the coordination of peer review, that are essential for ensuring the high quality and integrity of many scholarly publications. It is critical that these services continue to be made available.”

“We wanted to strike the balance between the extraordinary public benefit of increasing public access to the results of federally-funded scientific research and the need to ensure that the valuable contributions that the scientific publishing industry provides are not lost,” Dr. Holdren wrote.

The resulting policy mandating free public access within 12 months of publication is the result of an attempt to balance those competing interests, and it too is subject to future modification “based on experience and evidence.” (WaPo, NYT)

Leave a Reply