Policy Forum on Public Access to Federally Funded Research: Phase III Wrap-Up

Cross-posted from the OSTP blog.

Today we have reached the end of Phase Three of our public access policy forum.

We sincerely thank every one of you for taking the time to provide such valuable commentary on this topic. As previously mentioned, due to the busy holiday season we will be re-opening the forum for a two-week bonus session beginning immediately. In this final session we will be soliciting comments on all the topics discussed in the three previous phases, and may periodically ask during the course of these two weeks that participants focus on a few key issues that we feel warrant additional attention.

Phase Three focused on management—particularly how to ensure compliance, how to accurately measure success, and the Federal government’s role in guaranteeing the most effective public access policy.

One clear theme throughout your comments was the need for a public access policy that is simple and could be implemented quickly. You discussed the drawbacks to a policy process that “sacrifices the good for the sake of the perfect” and encouraged even partial steps that would take the process in the direction of greater access. In terms of compliance, the majority of you focused on the need for a clear mandate that is uniform across agencies. Some suggested the use of monetary sanctions for noncompliance, or withholding future funds for a particular research area until the requirements are met. You said uniform standards across agencies would streamline the submission process.

Many of you provided examples of organizations that could serve as models with regard to evaluation processes. Some suggested measuring federally-funded research citations, or tracking the number of views or hits that each submission receives. Others thought a better metric would be to determine how improved access to electronic resources leads to greater overall productivity, and suggested tracking the requests for certain datasets and then analyzing the product that results.

Finally, you engaged in a great discussion concerning the role of the Federal government. Most of you agreed that the government’s main role is to ensure compliance, but you also cautioned that a burdensome compliance mechanism could be counterproductive. Another theme of the discussion was the need for a centralized depository location. Though some of you suggested using university libraries as a depository, the overall consensus seemed to lean toward the belief that this format would be unduly burdensome on universities. Many of you commented that creating one site where researchers may click and deposit their work is the most efficient way to ensure not only compliance but also the greatest degree of public access. One idea was to house a long-term repository within the Library of Congress, which would accept and store articles and make them available to the public.

Once again thank you to all who participated; your comments and suggestions are genuinely appreciated. Now, for those of you who have been caught up with the holidays or have simply procrastinated, please take some time to share your thoughts on the OSTP blog as we extend this public forum through January 14th.

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