US plans to open government-funded scientific research • The Register

Fourteen years after the late Aaron Swartz published his Guerrilla Open Access Manifesto calling for the exemption of publicly funded scientific literature, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy has called for taxpayer-funded research to be made available to the public free of charge is made available.

dr Alondra Nelson, the head of OSTP, edited guidance [PDF] to those responsible for U.S. government departments and agencies, with instructions to update their public access policies for their free and public release as soon as possible and no later than April 31.”

“The US is committed to the ideas that openness in science is fundamental, safety is essential, and liberty and integrity are vital,” Nelson wrote in her memo. “Improving public access policies across the U.S. government to encourage the rapid sharing of federally funded research data with appropriate safeguards and accountability measures will allow for greater validity of research results and more equitable access to data resources that conform to these ideals.”

in 2011, black, who had helped develop RSS and Creative Commons projects, was arrested by MIT police for installing a computer in an MIT closet without permission and downloading copies of scientific journal articles from JSTOR, a digital library of scientific publications Journals with paywall access. He aspired to make publicly funded research accessible to all.

As he enrolled his manifesto three years earlier: “We need to take information wherever it is stored, make our copies and share it with the world. We need to take things that are out of copyright and add them to the archive. We need to buy secret databases and store them on the web. We need to download scientific journals and upload them to file sharing networks.”

Swartz was charged with violating the US Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, a law that has only recently been criticized for being too broad moderated via guidelines. He faces a prison sentence of up to 35 years.

Swartz turned down a plea deal demanding a six-month sentence and attempted to reach a deal with MIT instead of jail time allegedly wouldn’t sign it. In January 2013, he killed himself at the age of 26.

A month later, the OSTP was released under the Obama administration a note [PDF] with the title “Improving access to the results of state-funded scientific research”. It called on federal agencies and departments with annual research spending in excess of $100 million to develop a plan to encourage greater access to publicly funded research.

But as Nelson points out in her memo, the old policy provided for a 12-month post-release embargo period, allowing academic publishers to maintain an exclusive, rewarding distribution window.

“This provision has restricted direct access to government-funded research to those who are able to pay for it or who have privileged access through libraries or other institutions,” explains Nelson. “Funding and privileged access must never be the prerequisite for realizing the benefits of federally funded research that the American public deserves.”

In 2019, the Trump administration considered an executive order to remove the 12-month embargo window. But there was Kickback from academic publishers and the scientific community anxious to retain revenue generated during the embargo period. The Executive Order was never issued.

That economic analysis [PDF] published in conjunction with Nelson’s memo, cites figures from the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) showing that “the average cost of publishing a research article from all funding sources is between $2,000 and $3,000.”

In many cases, these costs can be offset against contracts, grants and research budgets in connection with government-funded research awards. Meanwhile, SPARC puts the estimated profit per article for publishers at around $1,500 to $2,000.

“By comparison, the ‘production’ cost of depositing a government-funded research article in an open access repository can be as conservative as $15, and even lower for a federally owned and managed repository like PubMed,” the analysis reads .

The abolition of the one-year paywall period is estimated to save taxpayers between $390 million and $789 million. ® US plans to open government-funded scientific research • The Register

Laura Coffey

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