Major new bill mandating open access introduced in Congress

A new bill mandating OA to federally-funded research was just introduced into both houses of Congress. It's called the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research, or FASTR. It was introduced in the Senate by John Cornyn (R-TX) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), and in the House by Mike Doyle (D-PA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), and Kevin Yoder (R-KS). 

The quickest introduction is to say that FASTR is a strengthened version of FRPAA. 

FRPAA was introduced in three earlier sessions of Congress (May 2006, April 2009, and February 2012), with growing momentum each time. But it never came up for a vote. In the new session, Congressional supporters of OA decided to up the game and introduce a strengthened version of the bill rather than the same language. Both FRPAA and FASTR would essentially strengthen the OA mandate at the NIH, by shortening the maximum embargo to six months, and then extend the strengthened policy across the federal government. FASTR goes one step further by requiring libre OA, not merely gratis OA.

Because FRPAA is generally well-known among OA supporters, let me introduce FASTR by comparing it to FRPAA. 

Here's how FASTR and FRPAA are alike. (Section numbers in parentheses refer to FASTR, not FRPAA.)

* Both cover the same set of agencies, namely, all those spending at least $100 million/year to fund extramural research (Section 4.a).

* Both give agencies one year from the passage of the bill (4.a) to develop their policies in conformity with the guidelines laid down in the bill.

* Both mandate "public access" (4.a.1, 4.b, 4.f.2.A), "free online public access" (4.b.4), and "free public access" (4.b.7.B, 4.f.2.A) without defining these terms. I'll call this kind of access "open access" ("OA") here for convenience.

* Both mandate green OA (through repositories) (4.b.7.A), and are silent on gold OA (through journals). 

* Both require deposit of the final version of the author's peer-reviewed manuscript (4.b.1). Both allow consenting publishers to replace that version with the published version (4.b.3).

* Both give agencies freedom to designate a suitable repository for the mandatory deposits, when suitability includes "free public access, interoperability, and long-term preservation" (4.b.7). Agencies may host their own repositories, the way NIH hosts PubMed Central, or ask grantees to deposit in suitable institutional or disciplinary repositories.

* Both apply to research funded "in whole or in part" (4.b.1) by one of the covered federal agencies.

* Both ask for OA "as soon as practicable" after publication in a peer-reviewed journal, and both require it "no later than 6 months" after publication (4.b.4). Both require immediate OA (unembargoed OA) for works by government-employed researchers (4.c).

* Both avoid copyright problems by requiring agency policies to "make effective use of any law or guidance relating to the creation and reservation of a Government license that provides for the reproduction, publication, release, or other uses of a final manuscript for Federal purposes" (4.c.3). In writing about FRPAA, I've pointed out that this allows agencies to use the NIH method for avoiding copyright problems, or other methods not chosen by the NIH, including the use of certain, codified government-purpose licenses.

* Both exempt classified research, unpublished research, royalty-producing research such as books, and patentable discoveries (4.d.3).

* Both are explicit in not amending copyright law or patent law (4.e).

Here's how FASTR differs from FRPAA:

* FASTR contains a provision on coordinating agency policies (4.a 2): "To the extent practicable, Federal agencies required to develop a policy...shall follow common procedures for the collection and depositing of research papers." This will reduce the burden on universities that need to comply with procedures at all the covered agencies, and should have no detrimental effect on OA. Indeed, it should improve compliance with agency OA policies.

* FASTR contains three provisions calling for libre OA or open licensing:
--FASTR includes a new "finding" in its preamble (2.3): "the United States has a substantial interest in maximizing the impact and utility of the researchit funds by enabling a wide range of reuses of the peer-reviewed literature that reports the results of such research, including by enabling computationalanalysis by state-of-the-art technologies."
--FASTR includes a formatting and licensing provision (4.b.5): the versions deposited in repositories and made OA shall be distributed "in formats and under terms that enable productive reuse, including computational analysis by state-of-the-art technologies."
--FASTR requires that the annual report from each covered agency include a statement from the agency on "whether the terms of use applicable to such research papers are effective in enabling productive reuse and computational analysis by state-of-the-art technologies" (4.f.2.B.i) and the results of the agency's "examination of 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 to the author or authors of the research and any others designated by the copyright owner" (4.f.2.B.ii).

The Senate and House versions of FASTR are identical.

FASTR would apply to the Department of Health and Human Services, among other agencies. Because HHS subsumes the NIH, FASTR would strengthen the NIH policy both by shortening the embargo to six months and by requiring open licenses. The NIH is already, by far, the world's largest funder of non-classified research, with a research budget larger than the GDP of 140 nations. Because FASTR applies to more than a dozen other federal agencies as well, I can reaffirm my assessment from August 2009: "FRPAA [and now FASTR] would mandate OA for more research literature than any other policy ever adopted or ever proposed. It would significantly increase both the corpus of OA literature and the worldwide momentum for funder OA mandates. It would come as close as any single step could to changing the default for the way we disseminate new scientific work, especially publicly-funded work."

The NIH budget alone is more than six times larger than the budgets of all seven of the UK research councils put together. Hence, it's significant that FASTR disregards or repudiates the gold-oriented RCUK/Finch policy in the UK, and sticks to the FRPAA model of a pure green mandate. For some of the reasons why I think OA mandates should be green and not gold, or green first, see my critique of the RCUK/Finch policy from September 2012.

Note that the bill was introduced not only on Valentine's Day, but on the 11th anniversary of the Budapest Open Access Initiative. It's fitting that FASTR recommends libre OA, essentially CC-BY, and the ten-year anniversary statement from the BOAI did the same in Recommendation 2.1: "We recommend CC-BY or an equivalent license as the optimal license for the publication, distribution, use, and reuse of scholarly work."

I wrote a "reference page" on FRPAA <> and have started a similar one on FASTR <>. So far it's got little more than the summary of the bill I've written here. But I'll enlarge the page over time with the bill's co-sponsors, major statements of support and opposition, and ways to help. Take a look and share the URL. 

This is Part 1 in a series of blog posts on FASTR and other federal actions to support OA to federally-funded research. I'll pull the series of posts together for an article in the March issue of the SPARC Open Access Newsletter.

Happy Valentines-BOAI day!

#oa #openaccess #fastr
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