What about Open Access in the US ?

As the International Week of OA 2018 approaches, MyScienceWork takes you on a unique journey to discover OA policies all over the world. First stop: USA!

(Want to learn more about Open Access in Europe & Latin America?)

From FRPAA to FASTR : A story of Open Access acronyms in the US!

The general OA tendency in US politics is that taxpayer-funded research must made freely accessible to the public, i.e. the taxpayers.

The US federal research investment is approximately $60 billion a year, most of it being unequally divided between 11 federal departments and agencies, such as the National Institute of Health (NIH), the National Science Foundation (NSF), NASA, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). NIH alone spends approximately $30 billion on biomedical research every year, in other words, roughly half of the US annual investment in research.

In 2008, George W. Bush signed a bill requiring all research funded by the NIH to be archived in the free-access repository PubMedCentral no later than one year after their initial publication. This bill opened the path to the Green OA in the US.

In 2013, the Obama administration tried to extend the NIH policy to all the other federal agencies spending annually more than $100 million on fundamental and applied research. The goal was to double the number of papers made freely accessible per year. This bill, called the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA) was presented three times to the Congress (in 2006, 2009 and 2012) but never reached the voting stage. In 2014, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) presented a modified version of FRPAA to the Congress called FASTR, Fair Access to Science and Technology Research. FASTR shortens the embargo period from 12 to 6 months before publications are made freely accessible. After two presentations in the Congress (2014 and 2017), FASTR has not come up for a vote yet.

FASTR’s fate : a slow process?

It is hard to predict the fate of FASTR under Trump administration. Since December 2017, the document “Increasing Access to the Results of Federally Funded Scientific Research” (2013) disappeared from the White House website, while the open access policy for NIH remains intact.

Even if federal laws seem slow to decide the fate of OA in the US, it is worth noting that some major research funders, such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, require Green OA as a condition for their grant. This may not change the federal regulation of OA, but these funders are highly influential. Moreover, California, whose UC (Universities of California) researchers are amongst the moost prolific in terms of publications, has been the first to address the OA problem at a state level. In 2014, the Golden State passed an OA law, requiring free public access of scientific publications after 12 months. This first-of-its-kind law could lead the way for state-level OA policies in the US. Let’s dream it could be a first step towards a federal regulation of US OA.

To learn more: