May 26, 2018

California Open Access Bill Clears Committee

A bill which would require California-funded research to be deposited in open access repositories passed the state’s Assembly Accountability and Administrative Review Committee on May 1.

Assemblyman Brian Nestande (R-Palm Desert) introducedthe bill, which was the brainchild of California Council on Science & Tech Fellow Annabelle Kleist, who works in Nestande’s office. Kleist said she contacted Heather Joseph, Executive Director of the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), who put her in contact with people who could help shape the proposal.

Joseph told LJ, “Annabelle had all the right instincts in developing the proposed CA State Open Access legislation. Her personal experience in running into barriers as she tried to access research articles was a powerful driver. She was looking for examples of existing legislative approaches to try and address this issue, and of course we had some good solid ones to share – including the recently introduced Fair Access to Science and Technology Research (FASTR) Act on the National level. It was very encouraging to also see that the same drivers that draw support for Open Access policies on the national level – acceleration of scientific discovery, innovation and economic growth- were strong drivers on the State level, as well.”

“California’s taxpayers fund this research and they have a right to expect that the results are available and accessible. If we want California to remain at the forefront of cutting-edge discoveries and innovations, we must make sure that this information is available to those who can use and build upon this knowledge,” said Nestande. “As taxpayers, we should not have to pay to gain access to vital research that our tax dollars paid for.”

It’s not clear exactly how much research California does fund: agencies are not required to report their funding to the legislature, Kleist told LJ, so the most recent figure Nestande’s office could find was $327 million in direct research funding in 2006, based on an National Science Foundation report. However, Kleist said, “We are working with the UC libraries to come up with a better estimate that’s more recent.”

As originally drafted, the bill called for a six month embargo and a new repository managed by the California State Library. However, in that form, in addition to opposition from the American Association of Publishers, NetChoice, TechAmerica, and CalChamber, it attracted critique from an unusual source—the University of California (UC) system, whose libraries spend nearly $40 million each year on access to academic journals.

While supporting open access in principle, “the Senate has concerns that the bill’s current permissible embargo period of six months may be too short, and does not conform to national open access policies,” Robert L. Powell, Chair of U.C.’s Academic Council, wrote in a letter to the committee. And Adrian Diaz, UC, Legislative Director, asked the committee to explicitly state that UC is not a state agency, and is therefore not required to develop an open access policy of its own.

Nestande made the requested amendments, and UC now endorses the bill.

In fact, “We have had tremendous support from the academic community on AB 609,” said Nestande, and Kleist says much of that support is from UC professors—particularly from UCSF, which already has an open access policy. Other supporters include many library voices. Institutions include the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), Greater Western Library Alliance, and Scholarly Publishing & Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC). Individuals include MacKenzie Smith, UC Davis University Librarian; Anneliese Taylor, UCSF Librarian; Karen Butter, Librarian; and Francis F. Steen, Chair of the Senate Committee on Library and Scholarly Communication, UCLA.

Nestande also introduced amendments to replace the new repository requirement with “allowing agencies to determine which existing repositories” they’ll accept, Kleist told LJ. UC, for example, already has its own. (At press time, acting California State Librarian Gerry Maginnity was out of the office and could not be reached for comment.)

The change should make the bill “essentially pretty close to cost-neutral,” Kleist said. The Appropriations committee will put together an analysis of how much the bill would cost to implement. But Kleist says the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine, on whose recent policy the bill’s text was in part modeled, was able to implement its own policy with existing funds and staff. (The bill was also based on the National Institute of Health’s policy.) However, unlike the recent federal OSTP memo, “this is not an unfunded mandate,” Kleist said.

The bill differs from the OSTP memo in another way as well: it does not include a requirement that the underlying data be made available, only the published paper. “The other California policy [the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine] does not include data, and the federal policy isn’t actually in place yet,” Kleist explained. “We don’t want ours to be more restrictive than the federal policy; we don’t want to put any undue burden on professors that are trying to comply.”

Meredith Schwartz About Meredith Schwartz

Meredith Schwartz ( is Executive Editor of Library Journal.

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