March 23, 2018

Scholarly Publishers Oppose FRPAA

On March 5, the Association of American Publishers’ Professional and Scholarly Publishing Division (AAP/PSP) and the DC Principles Coalition sent letters opposing the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA) to the chair and ranking member of committees considering the bill in the Senate, and in the House of Representatives.

The letters were signed by 81 U.S. scholarly journal publishers, including Elsevier, which recently withdrew its support from the now-defunct Research Works Act (RWA) under considerable pressure from the academic community. (The RWA would have prohibited open access mandates for federally funded research.) Other signatories of the letters include John Wiley & Sons, The McGraw-Hill Companies, Springer Publishing Company, Taylor & Francis, and Wolters Kluwer, as well as a large number of professional societies.

FRPAA, which was introduced in February, would require federal agencies with an extramural research budget of $100 million or more to make federally-funded research available for free online access by the general public, no later than six months after publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

Among AAP’s objections to the bill are that the requirement is to publish the final version of the paper, which has undergone the publishers’ value additions, and that the six month deadline is too soon for some disciplines, which, AAP contends, may not recoup the cost of an article for several years.

The bill is modeled on the National Institute of Health policy, which requires that NIH funded papers be published within 12 months. The NIH requirement took effect in 2008 and since then, the number of journals and subscription prices have both sustained double digit increases despite a general economic downturn, causing NIH to argue that the policy has not been shown to harm publishers.

Tom Allen, president and CEO of AAP, said in a statement, “We have always advocated that long-needed dialogue about public access to federally-funded research will be best addressed through the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy process as created by Congress, not through legislation such as FRPAA and the Research Works Act.” Despite this, the AAP endorsed the RWA in December 2011.

FRPAA is supported by the American Association of Law Libraries, American Library Association, Association of Academic Health Sciences Libraries, Association of College & Research Libraries, Association of Research Libraries, Creative Commons, Greater Western Library Alliance, Public Knowledge, Public Library of Science and the Scholarly Publishing & Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), as well as leaders of many research universities.

Meredith Schwartz About Meredith Schwartz

Meredith Schwartz ( is Executive Editor of Library Journal.

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  1. My understanding is that the bill, if it passes, will require a manuscript version of a paper to be posted, not the published version, and after a 12-month embargo period, not a 6-month one. Was the language of the bill changed since you wrote this piece, do you know?