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Yesterday we announced the launch of the Public Access Forum, sponsored by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Beginning with today’s post, we look forward to a productive online discussion.
One of our nation's most important assets is the trove of data produced by federally funded scientists and published in scholarly journals. The question that this Forum will address is: To what extent and under what circumstances should such research articles—funded by taxpayers but with value added by scholarly publishers—be made freely available on the Internet?
The Forum is set to run through Jan. 7, 2010, during which time we will focus sequentially on three broad themes (you can access the full schedule here). In the first phase of this forum (Dec. 10th-20th) we want to focus on the topic of Implementation. Among the questions we’d like to have you, the public and various stakeholders, consider are:
- Who should enact public access policies? Many agencies fund research the results of which ultimately appear in scholarly journals. The National Institutes of Health requires that research funded by its grants be made available to the public online at no charge within 12 months after publication. Which other Federal agencies may be good candidates to adopt public access policies? Are there objective reasons why some should promulgate public access policies and others not? What criteria are appropriate to consider when an agency weighs the potential costs (including administrative and management burdens) and benefits of increased public access?
- How should a public access policy be designed?
1. Timing. At what point in time should peer-reviewed papers be made public via a public access policy relative to the date a publisher releases the final version? Are there empirical data to support an optimal length of time? Different fields of science advance at different rates—a factor that can influence the short- and long-term value of new findings to scientists, publishers and others. Should the delay period be the same or vary across disciplines? If it should vary, what should be the minimum or maximum length of time between publication and public release for various disciplines? Should the delay period be the same or vary for levels of access (e.g. final peer reviewed manuscript or final published article, access under fair use versus alternative license)?
2. Version. What version of the paper should be made public under a public access policy (e.g., the author’s peer-reviewed manuscript or the final published version)? What are the relative advantages and disadvantages of different versions of a scientific paper?
3. Mandatory v. Voluntary. The NIH mandatory policy was enacted after a voluntary policy at the agency failed to generate high levels of participation. Are there other approaches to increasing participation that would have advantages over mandatory participation?
4. Other. What other structural characteristics of a public access policy ought to be taken into account to best accommodate the needs and interests of authors, primary and secondary publishers, libraries, universities, the federal government, users of scientific literature and the public?
We invite your comments and in particular encourage you to be specific in your thoughts and proposals, providing empirical data and specific supporting examples whenever possible so this discussion can generate maximum practical value. You may want to start by reading a more complete description of this issue as it appeared in the Federal Register.
Importantly, this is a community-moderated blog. That means we count on you to keep the forum focused and on-topic—something you can do by “voting” on comments. Voting is an expression of how germane to the topic a comment is. Voting up a comment expresses approval of the relevance. If enough people vote down a comment, the comment in question “collapses” into a link so that it doesn’t interrupt the flow of discussion. Please read the complete Terms of Participation, where you can also learn how to “flag” comments such as spam or obscenities that violate the Terms.
We welcome your thoughtful comments in this open and participatory forum.
Diane DiEuliis is Assistant Director of Life Sciences and Robynn Sturm is Assistant Deputy Chief Technology Officer in the Office of Science and Technology Policy