It’s FRPAA time! Pro-open access legislation introduced in House and Senate

Yesterday members in both the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives introduced identical bills  with bipartisan support aimed at improving access to federally funded research.  In the House, the Federal Research Public Access Act of 2012 (or FRPAA) (H.R. 4004) was introduced in the morning by Rep.  Doyle (D-PA) and co-sponsored by Reps. Yoder (R-KS) and Clay (D-MO), and referred to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.  In the Senate, a bill by the same name (S. 2096) was introduced late in the day by Sens. Cornyn (R-TX) and co-sponsored by Senators Wyden (D-OR) and Hutchison (R-TX), and then referred to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs.

If passed, the Federal Research Public Access Act of 2012 would:

  • Require federal departments and agencies with an annual extramural research budget of $100 million to develop a policy to ensure researchers submit an electronic copy of the final manuscript accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.
  • Ensure that the manuscript is preserved in a stable digital repository maintained by that agency or in another suitable repository that permits free public access, interoperability, and long-term preservation.
  • Require that each taxpayer-funded manuscript be made available to the public online and without cost, no later than six months after the article has been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Sound familiar? It should – these bills are essentially identical to FRPAA legislation introduced in previous Congresses dating back to 2006.  The ALA has a history of strong support for this type of legislation – as they build on the success of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Public Access Policy implemented in 2008.  If you recall, the NIH Public Access Policy ensures that the public have access to the published results of NIH funded research no later than 12 months after publication. FRPAA legislation would be a big step in the right direction by expanding the amount of research made available and providing access to it to no later than 6 months after publication.

Rep. Doyle sums up the intent of the legislation by stating in his press release,

Americans have the right to see the results of research funded with taxpayer dollars….Yet such research too often gets locked away behind a pay-wall, forcing those who want to learn from it to pay expensive subscription fees for access.

Bottom line – our patrons, the American public, should not have to fund federal research with their tax dollars and then have to pay for it again to access it.  The ALA has been a long-time, ardent supporter of increasing access to information of all types, including federally funded research. Thus, the ALA is a strong supporter of FRPAA legislation and will advocate for passage of these bills.

But wait, there’s more! FRPAA is also the perfect antidote to the bitter anti-open access “pill” being pushed by Rep. Issa in the House with his Research Works Act bill (H.R. 3699).  Rep. Issa’s bill, if passed, would nullify the NIH Public Access policy and prevent any such similar policies from being implemented.  Let’s shift the conversation and focus our energy on legislation that improves access to the public (i.e. taxpayers).  Today’s (re)introduction of FRPAA legislation is a positive and welcome addition to improving access to federally funded research.

Corey Williams
Associate Director, Office of Government Relations
American Library Association

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