White House opens more federally funded scientific research to the public

February 22, 2013

A new White House directive will allow the general public more access to federally funded scientific research, the Obama administration announced Friday.

The directive instructs federal agencies with more than $100 million in research and development expenditure to allow public access to some journal articles one year after their original publication date. It also directs researchers to publish their data.

Some articles and data will be exempt from the directive for national security or other legal reasons.

The measure emulates the policies of the National Institutes of Health, which requires all of its grantees to post an copies of journal articles and published results that are funded with public money within a year after publication.

Open information advocates have tried for years to get the administration to grant further access to publicly funded research, and have even used the White House’s petition tool to draw more attention to the subject. Over 65,000 people signed the petition.

The tactic seems to have worked. In an online response to the petition, Office of Science and Technology Policy director John Holdren thanked We the People signatories for their petition.

Renewed interest in open access surfaced following the death of Internet activist Aaron Swartz. Swartz, who faced felony computer crime charges after downloading thousands of articles from the academic database J-STOR, was found dead in his apartment last month of an apparent suicide.

The move was hailed by open information advocates, who said this is a “watershed” moment for open access.

Heather Joseph, the executive director of the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, said in a statement that she believes the directive will “accelerate scientific discovery, improve education and empower entrepreneurs” to take advantage of the latest scientific data.

Related stories:

Anonymous hacks MIT sites to post Aaron Swartz tribute, call to arms

Aaron Swartz’s death sparks cries for computer crime law overhaul

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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