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February 26, 2013 1:41 PM All Taxpayer-funded Research Will Now Be Freely Available

By Daniel Luzer

AaronSwartz

In what appears to be sort of acknowledgement of the life of Aaron Swartz (right), the American computer programmer and Internet activist who committed suicide last month while facing legal charges related his downloading of academic journal articles from JSTOR, the White House announced yesterday from now on all taxpayer-funded research will be available to the public within one year of publication.

According to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy:

Director John Holdren has directed Federal agencies with more than $100M in R&D expenditures to develop plans to make the published results of federally funded research freely available to the public within one year of publication and requiring researchers to better account for and manage the digital data resulting from federally funded scientific research. OSTP has been looking into this issue for some time, soliciting broad public input on multiple occasions and convening an interagency working group to develop a policy. The final policy reflects substantial inputs from scientists and scientific organizations, publishers, members of Congress, and other members of the public—over 65 thousand of whom recently signed a We the People petition asking for expanded public access to the results of taxpayer-funded research.

More than 65,000 people signed the petition to allow open access to studies funded by taxpayers.

Holdren indicates that he believes this new open access policy will lead to new discoveries.

This seems a little unlikely. Scientists likely to perform research pretty much already have access to studies that are paywall protected.

Still, it’s certainly good for the public at large to have access to all the research they fund. Unlike, say, classified information, scientific studies aren’t kept from the public through any desire to keep sensitive information from becoming available to the wrong people. Rather, scientific studies are kept behind pay walls simply because academic publishers have the power to do this, and charge for their content, even if the actual research was publically funded. . [Image via]

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer

Comments

  • Crissa on February 27, 2013 4:02 AM:

    While there is evidence scientists are already awash in more data than they can read... The scientists that already have access to this are only the top of the crop. The rest of us can go sit and spin and merely hope the references check out, or find someone to check them.

    But having the data available, freely, allows big and small access to experiments and findings much more clearly. We can find out if someone is BSing us more easily. Even scientists who have free access will have access to stuff outside their field, no longer trapped to the tiers of service the journals have - much like the rest of us are stuck paying for sports at every cable tier even though all we want are the science and history channels.

    One thing I did when I was looking for a new place to live was access the database of all the weather from various stations near places I was looking to live - and create a detailed description of climactic zones tailored to my spouse. How often did it snow, how often was it cold, how many days of sun vs rain. There's no service that does that now, but I could just go out and look it up.

    This will just make it better.