White House Orders Federal Agencies To Require More Open Access To Not Just Research, But Data

from the big-news dept

Just a couple days ago, we were talking about the newly proposed FASTR bill, which would require federal agencies with greater than $100 million in research funds to require the end results of that research to be published in open ways within six months of publication. As we've noted, for years, the NIH (National Institute for Health) has had a plan that says all the research it funds needs to be published via open access after 12 months.

However, before anything happened with FASTR, it appears that the White House has stepped in to more or less push a fairly similar agenda via a White House policy memo. This comes in response to one of those We The People... petitions (which we had suggested you support). Dr. John Holdren, the Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, explained this rather big change in policy pretty clearly:
I have issued a memorandum today (.pdf) to Federal agencies that directs those with more than $100 million in research and development expenditures to develop plans to make the results of federally-funded research publically available free of charge within 12 months after original publication. As you pointed out, the public access policy adopted by the National Institutes of Health has been a great success. And while this new policy call does not insist that every agency copy the NIH approach exactly, it does ensure that similar policies will appear across government.
The interesting part is that, while this plan has the same 12 month delay as the NIH plan, rather than the 6 months in FASTR, it looks like the White House is really pushing agencies to go further. They're not just asking for the papers to be open access, but the more useful data as well:
In addition to addressing the issue of public access to scientific publications, the memorandum requires that agencies start to address the need to improve upon the management and sharing of scientific data produced with Federal funding. Strengthening these policies will promote entrepreneurship and jobs growth in addition to driving scientific progress. Access to pre-existing data sets can accelerate growth by allowing companies to focus resources and efforts on understanding and fully exploiting discoveries instead of repeating basic, pre-competitive work already documented elsewhere. For example, open weather data underpins the forecasting industry and provides great public benefits, and making human genome sequences publically available has spawned many biomedical innovations—not to mention many companies generating billions of dollars in revenues and the jobs that go with them. Going forward, wider availability of scientific data will create innovative economic markets for services related to data curation, preservation, analysis, and visualization, among others.
That part is big news, though most people will only focus on the open access to publications part. As he states, open access to data really helps power all sorts of interesting companies and research. In the past, publications have often tried to claim copyright over the data produced by experiments as well (even though you technically can't claim copyright over pure data). I've heard of researchers who have had to redo their own experiments because they had signed away the "rights" to their own data from previous experiments. That's not just wasteful, it's insane. Requiring open access to data is a massive step in the right direction. Kudos to the White House for doing this.

Next up: can we get them to realize the same thing should apply to patents on federally funded research as well, and that such things should not be allowed? Or is that just asking too much?

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  1. icon
    John Fenderson (profile), 22 Feb 2013 @ 2:46pm


    And the truth of the matter is that patents do enable some otherwise not financially viable techs to be worthwhile.


    Patents protect (in a sense) the time and expense of the original invention. If that time and expense was footed by the public, then there is no reason for them to be patented.

    If a tech is not financially viable without a patent even entities who did not have to put in the time and expense, then the tech is not financially viable at all. The patent may be, but only to patent trolls.

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