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White House Delivers New Open Access Policy

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I wrote recently about the Congress of United States and another attempt to pas a bill on Open Access, the FASTR. The bill has not been put to a vote yet but it seems that the White House does not want to wait for a decision of the Congress in this matter.

The New York Times reports that the Obama administration is going to direct federal agencies to make all scientific papers supported government funding publicly available. In other words, the White House has decided to be more Open Access.

However, it does not mean that all agencies have to make it happen right away. In fact, the federal institutions have six months to prepare plans for both the peer-reviewed scientific papers and the digital manuscripts and supporting data, and to submit those plans to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

The White House plans have been perfectly summed up by John Holdren, the president’s science adviser, who said that: “Americans deserve easy access to the results of research their tax dollars have paid for”.

At this point it is difficult to predict how the new, and in fact, still undefined guidelines will be implemented by federal agencies. In reality, it is just a beginning of long road to Open Access. There are so many interests to reconcile for which the new policy of the White House could be unacceptable. For the beneficiaries of the current practice, among whom are the scientific journals publishing in the traditional way, the new rules may violate their interests; probably, though, some consensus will have to be worked out.

Nevertheless, it seems that the change has begun. It is enough to look at the commotion on the Internet and the reactions among a variety of institutions, which has been triggered by this news. What’s more, according to the latest information, 24 federal agencies have already joined to ROARMAP.

The example of this new policy of the Obama administration shows that Open Access is moving into the mainstream; is no longer only a subject of debates in scientific community but is considered at the governmental level; and not only in the US.  The direction of the discussion has changed from “when” to “how and who”. The most urgent questions are how to implement the change to Open Access in a way that will benefit science, society and economy, and who should manage the change?


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