April 23, 2018

College Presidents Signal Support for Public Access Research Act

By Josh Hadro

Liberal arts colleges would benefit from extending openness required by NIH policy

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  • Libraries can’t afford access to all relevant research
  • Act before Congress would "democratize access"
  • Question of political support remains

(Updated 10/1/2009)

The National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) public access policy mandate, made permanent this year, would be extended to other federal funding agencies under the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA), which has just received a boost from the presidents of 57 liberal arts colleges.

In June, the Act was reintroduced by Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT).  The bill currently before the Senate (S. 1373) would require journal articles publishing the results of research funded by any federal department or agency with an annual extramural research budget of $100 million or more to be made available to the public within six months of publication.

That budget limit covers the largest government research funding institutions, including the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Transportation, Environmental Protection, as well as the National Science Foundation and NASA.

Liberal arts benefits
The open letter, spearheaded by library directors and signed by a subset of the 80 selective institutions that make up the Oberlin Group consortium, begins with an axiom of public access support: "Academic libraries simply cannot afford ready access to most of the research literature that their faculty and students need."

The letter outlines the benefits the similar NIH mandate has afforded liberal arts colleges, and argues that the even more expansive FRPAA bill would further "democratize access to research information funded by tax dollars."

Because of the bill’s far-reaching implications for access to research in libraries and elsewhere, the American Library Association’s Office of Government Relations listed the bill in early September as one of the key issues for libraries on the Congressional legislative agenda.

Update, 10/1/2009:
In a similar letter issued by the Greater Western Library Alliance, 18 "chief academic and research officers" from among the consortium’s 32 research libraries have also signaled their support for the legislation. According to the letter, "FRPAA will help us maximize [our investment in science] by increasing the sharing [of] research results, advancing the pace of discovery, and applying this knowledge for the benefit of our communities."

Contact the author: josh.hadro@reedbusiness.com

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