We believe in the power of the Internet to foster innovation, research, and education. Requiring the published results of taxpayer-funded research to be posted on the Internet in human and machine readable form would provide access to patients and caregivers, students and their teachers, researchers, entrepreneurs, and other taxpayers who paid for the research. Expanding access would speed the research process and increase the return on our investment in scientific research.
The highly successful Public Access Policy of the National Institutes of Health proves that this can be done without disrupting the research process, and we urge President Obama to act now to implement open access policies for all federal agencies that fund scientific research.
Response to Petition
By Dr. John Holdren
Thank you for your participation in the We the People platform. The Obama Administration agrees that citizens deserve easy access to the results of research their tax dollars have paid for. As you may know, the Office of Science and Technology Policy has been looking into this issue for some time and has reached out to the public on two occasions for input on the question of how best to achieve this goal of democratizing the results of federally-funded research. Your petition has been important to our discussions of this issue.
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. Policies that mobilize these intellectual assets for re-use through broader access can accelerate scientific breakthroughs, increase innovation, and promote economic growth. That’s why the Obama Administration is committed to ensuring that the results of federally-funded scientific research are made available to and useful for the public, industry, and the scientific community.
Moreover, this research was funded by taxpayer dollars. Americans should have easy access to the results of research they help support.
To that end, I have issued a memorandum today (.pdf) to Federal agencies that directs those with more than $100 million in research and development expenditures to develop plans to make the results of federally-funded research publically available free of charge within 12 months after original publication. As you pointed out, the public access policy adopted by the National Institutes of Health has been a great success. And while this new policy call does not insist that every agency copy the NIH approach exactly, it does ensure that similar policies will appear across government.
As I mentioned, these policies were developed carefully through extensive public consultation. 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. This policy reflects that balance, and it also provides the flexibility to make changes in the future based on experience and evidence. For example, agencies have been asked to use a 12-month embargo period as a guide for developing their policies, but also to provide a mechanism for stakeholders to petition the agency to change that period. As agencies move forward with developing and implementing these polices, there will be ample opportunity for further public input to ensure they are doing the best possible job of reconciling all of the relevant interests.
In addition to addressing the issue of public access to scientific publications, the memorandum requires that agencies start to address the need to improve upon the management and sharing of scientific data produced with Federal funding. Strengthening these policies will promote entrepreneurship and jobs growth in addition to driving scientific progress. Access to pre-existing data sets can accelerate growth by allowing companies to focus resources and efforts on understanding and fully exploiting discoveries instead of repeating basic, pre-competitive work already documented elsewhere. For example, open weather data underpins the forecasting industry and provides great public benefits, and making human genome sequences publically available has spawned many biomedical innovations—not to mention many companies generating billions of dollars in revenues and the jobs that go with them. Going forward, wider availability of scientific data will create innovative economic markets for services related to data curation, preservation, analysis, and visualization, among others.
So thank you again for your petition. I hope you will agree that the Administration has done its homework and responded substantively to your request.
Dr. John Holdren is Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy
Updated: August 25th, 2016
A few years ago, you signed a petition calling for free digital access to scientific journal articles that arose from taxpayer-funded research. As Dr. John P. Holdren, President Obama’s science advisor, stated then your petition was an important part of the Administration’s ongoing discussions around the issue of easy and transparent access to federally-funded research.
Following the petition, he issued a memo directing Federal agencies with more than $100 million in annual R&D funding to plan to make the results of their research available and free of charge within a year of the memo’s publication.
As Dr. Holdren stated in his response:
“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. That’s why the Obama Administration is committed to ensuring that the results of federally-funded scientific research are made available to and useful for the public, industry, and the scientific community.”
Since then 16 federal departments and agencies accounting for more than 98 percent of federal R&D spending have completed their public access plans and begun taking steps to provide free public access to scholarly publications and digital data resulting from their funded research.
And this week, as part of its answer to the Administration’s call for research transparency, NASA launched a new, free, online archive for scientific-journal articles that will make available research and data that are often hidden behind the subscriptions and paywalls of scientific journals. It’s called PubSpace -- and it’s up and running now.
We hope you check it out! It’s a treasure trove of free articles that NASA hopes will magnify the impact of its research by allowing more scientists and engineers to build on its foundations.
Thank you again for your ongoing interest in and support of the Obama Administration’s efforts to make federally-funded, scientific research available and useful to the public. We will continue to keep you posted on future updates to these efforts.
-- We the People Team