FIRST Act is Setback for Public Access

By Elizabeth Holland

Today, the Subcommittee on Research and Technology of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology reported H.R.4186, the Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science and Technology (FIRST) Act. AALL strongly opposes the bill as written. Introduced this week by Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-Ind.) (the chairmen of the full committee and subcommittee, respectively), the FIRST Act would impose significant barriers to the public’s ability to access the results of taxpayer-funded research.

The FIRST Act flies in the face of the White House Directive on Public Access to the Results of Federally Funded Research and seeks instead to significantly limit public access to government-sponsored scientific research in several ways: Section 303 of the bill would restrict public access to articles reporting on federally funded research for up to three years after initial publication, a length of the time that would surely slow the pace of scientific discovery.  The bill would also allow federal agencies to link to final copies of articles, rather than archive full text copies for public use and long-term accessibility. The bill further fails to support provisions that allow for shorter embargo periods to publicly funded research results.

The FIRST Act clearly aims to reverse the President’s strong mandate for expanded public access, which was recently affirmed in the FY 2014 omnibus. It is not the open access reform we need.

Tell your lawmakers you oppose the FIRST Act and urge them to instead co-sponsor FASTR, the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (S. 350H.R. 708), which would strengthen the language in the omnibus bill by requiring that taxpayer funded articles be made available through a central database no later than six months after publication.

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