Coming soon: Free access to half of publicly funded U.S. research

U.S. taxpayers will now have access to some of the research they help fund.

In addition to the big news last week that the U.S. Congress actually got something done with the passage of a $1.1 billion budget, advocates for open access to publicly-funded research received some significant news.

Washington Post reports:

Deep inside the $1.1 trillion Consolidated Appropriations Act for 2014 is a provision that requires federal agencies under the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education portion of the bill with research budgets of $100 million or more to provide the public with online access to the research that they fund within 12 months of publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

With these changes, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) -- an advocate for open-access to publicly-funded research -- says that more than $31 billion of the total $60 billion annual U.S. investment in taxpayer-funded research will soon be available to the public for free. 

"This is an important step toward making federally funded scientific research available for everyone to use online at no cost," said Heather Joseph, executive director of SPARC, in a press release.

As a memorandum released by the White House last year -- with similar language used in the latest laws -- argued (pdf): "These policies will accelerate scientific breakthroughs and innovation, promote entrepreneurship, and enhance economic growth and job creation."

But this is not the first U.S. agency to provide open access to its publicly-funded research. In 2008, Congress required the National Institute of Health provide open access to NIH-funded research. At the time, the move was said to be the first open access mandate for a "public funding agency anywhere in the world that was demanded by the national legislature rather than initiated and adopted independently by the agency."

In Europe, the E.U. is now running a pilot program that will also open up data from publicly-funded research. 

Still, these open-access initiatives pose a threat to major publishing companies. So even with these latest initiatives, don't expect publishers to give up without a fight

Photo: Flickr/Amy Loves Yah

This post was originally published on