The U.S. Government isn’t exactly what you’d call an open source of information. I hear you still have to meet down in parking garages if you want to have real conversations. Or maybe that’s just for more lewd forms of behavior. In any case, while there are still a lot of things we probably don’t want to know about, scientific research paid for by American tax dollars seems like an obvious entry in the “things American tax payers should have access to.”
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) recently released a statement calling for all federal agencies with Research and Development budgets that spend over $100 million to begin preparing to release all scientific research no later than one year after its publication date. The statement says, “The Obama Administration is committed to the proposition that citizens deserve easy access to the results of scientific research their tax dollars have paid for.” I’m sure elderly people getting screwed over by social security and the health care system are aghast, but hey, maybe some of this research will help cure what ails them.
This has been the protocol only for the U.S. National Institutes of Health, and only since 2008. The years after that deal went into effect have been filled with attempts to do the same across the scientific board. There are, of course, some disagreements on exactly how things will work, both in terms of the strictness of the 12-month embargo, and the ways in which the articles will reach the public. Should the government set up library websites collecting all the research, it would pull readership away from the publishers themselves. So be sure that more money will change hands in some way or another to keep everyone’s wheels greased up and churning out information to the public like never before. Granted, most of us will have to ask someone what most of it means, but there’s power in that, too.
Though the FASTR (Fair Access to Science and Technology Research) bill would shorten the delay from one year to six months, the U.S. and most of Europe are behind making this delay manditory, while UK officials seem to be set on allowing public access to articles immediately after they’re published. There are obviously more kinks to iron out before it all gets put into play on April 1st. Meanwhile, I’ll be sitting over here not paying $30 to read an article on one of the dozens of overpriced journals spanning the Internet.
Header image by Kurt Barnett, courtesy Wikipedia Commons