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Will Congress finally open door for Open Access?

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Since 2006 three “different” Open Access bills have been introduced by Congress and all of them were dismissed. These bills were an attempt to establish more efficient OA policy for government agencies. Despite previous failures, a few days ago, a new OA bill was introduced into the US Congress.  Fourth-time lucky? 

The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR) has been presented last Thursday. FASTR is a modification of previous bill – Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA), which has been dismissed in 2006, 2009 and 2012 and never so much as  even got to the voting stage.

A new bill requires free public access to the results of research funded from federal sources. It means, that scientific articles being a result of public-funded research should be published, sooner or later, in OA. This requirement would be applied to federal agencies with an annual budget for research of more than $ 100 million. The bill is also intended to shorten the waiting time for the appearance of the OA article. Under the regime of new rules the article should be freely available to public no later than six months after publication in a peer-reviewed journal. Moreover, the bill would seek to enable computational analysis across the full range of articles submitted. What’s more, the articles should be made open not only for reading but also for re-use. The FASTR focuses on Green OA and is silent on Gold OA.

(For more details on the differences between FASTR and a previous bill proposal, you may check out Peter Suber profile; and HERE is the full text of FASTR.)

Is there any chance for this bill to get to the voting stage, or even more so –  to be adopted by the Congress? The question should be approached cautiously. Previous bills aimed to enforce OA rules for research agencies funded from public money were opposed with stringent resistance.

Is a time high for a tangible change? Not likely. The Association of American Publishers comes out strongly against FASTR. In the statement, released by the organization, we can read:

“This bill would waste so much taxpayers’ money at a time of budgetary crisis, squander federal employees’ time with busywork and require the creation and maintenance of otherwise-unneeded technology”

This reveals a jarring contrast between the organizations supporting open access to research results and the organizations (publishers), which, obviously see their margins at risk in a straight top-down imposition of the requirement to publish in OA. Needless to say- so far these organizations have had greater breakdown strength or lobbying power than the entire open access movement. But with the academic spring spreading through the academia and the authors alike, the political and social climate is certainly due to change. The need to open access to scientific books and articles is shared by an increasing number of researchers, students, and readers alike. Instigated by the social reaction on the tragic suicide death of Aaron Swartz the changes are visible globally. The final result will depend on the Congress willing or refusing to change the current status-quo.


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