The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) recently announced a major new policy aimed at expanding public access to the results of unclassified, federally funded research. In a new policy memorandum, OSTP Director John Holdren has directed Federal agencies with more than $100 million in R&D expenditures to develop plans to make the published results of such research freely available to the public, generally within one year of publication. The directive also requires scientific data developed with federal funding to be made available to the public “to search, retrieve, and analyze.” Affected agencies have six months to decide how to carry out the policy.
OSTP has been considering the issue of “open access” for some time, soliciting broad public input on multiple occasions and convening an interagency working group to develop a policy. The resulting directive reflects substantial input from scientists and scientific organizations, publishers, members of Congress, and other members of the public. It also builds on progress made by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the first federal agency to require public access to taxpayer-funded research, by requiring agencies to address access to digital data.
The policy announcement emphasizes the practical and economic benefits of making federally funded research results more widely available, noting the catalyzing effect of scientific research on innovative breakthroughs that drive our economy: “The results of that research become the grist for new insights and are assets for progress in areas such as health, energy, the environment, agriculture, and national security.” The potential economic benefits of opening up access to this research are estimated to be in the hundreds of billions of dollars.
The precise implementation details are yet to be worked out by the various agencies and the delay between publication and public access may ultimately be shortened to six months if the bipartisan Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR) passes (both the Senate and House versions of the bill have been referred to committee). In any event, however, OSTP’s directive promises to give savvy researchers of all stripes new opportunities to more timely identify useful research results and data they can employ to advance their own research, institutions, and companies.
Eric Whytsell is the attorney responsible for the content of this article.