Congress requires publicly funded research to be publicly available


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That’s. . wow. . that’s potentially a LOT of research!

This could potentially make some people very, very unhappy but also might be the beginning of the end for paywalls between me and scientific and medical research, which more than makes up for it!


I’m a little confused about whether this also covers people who are funded by said agencies, and also why NSF, NIH, NIST, DOE, BES etc., aren’t included here. I understand DOD, but there have been pushes to reduce the level of work labelled “classified,” so DOD unclassified should also be included.

It’s a start at least!


If this means that the NIH model is being more widely adopted, then yes: this covers research funded by granting agencies. For example, when I was a post-doc funded by the NCI, all my fellowship research was mandated open access (at least a preprint manuscript, and some journals simply provide a publication copy to comply).


I was wondering about NIST too. Who does the pure math that ends up becoming the next generation of crypto?

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What is this madness?! Congress is capable of doing something sort of right sometime?! This and the slight increase of NASA’s funding/not killing off the Europa mission gives me hope for the future. Its still most certainly not enough, to stay competitive the United States needs to not only invest more in science but allow access to such research it if publicly funded. The economy benefits would be enormous.


Well the products of actual government employees aren’t eligible for US Copyright, so I hope so. Otherwise this is nearly meaningless. I just wonder whether the lawyers will have to draft a codicil to the copyright assignments.

Considering it applies only to the Departments of Ed and Labor, I’m wondering if there is a wingnut component to it. Who wants to bet that any research that supports his point of view will be shared by your crazy conservative uncle on Facebook?

Still, it’s the right thing to do and a start.

(immediate publication and all work placed in the pubic domain)

I’m not ashamed to admit that I giggled at that typo.

What makes you say that? Do you think publicly funded research should not be placed in the public domain?

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I’m saying that since works created by US Government employees in the course of the employment are ALREADY in the public domain, if this act applies only to their works it does very little indeed. If OTOH it applies to works FUNDED by the government but DONE by others it is a very good thing. Expect a lot of push back from commercial scientific publishers. A man more jaded than I am might conclude that this is an intentional ploy to get more political contributions from the scientific publishers: “This is what we do when you’re not anteing up enough, so pay up or we’ll stop giving you for free the exclusive rights to the research that we fund.”


It might make sense to start mirrors that are not under government control. Something monopolized by government can easily be censored.

People are rarely referring to manuscript reprints when they say “keep it in your pants!” But if the legislation had that same typo, that’s what Congress would be saying.

You think that the government is going to start censoring publications that it would have otherwise left alone if the publications were behind a paywall?

FYI, PubMed posts articles that are accepted for publication elsewhere.

To be clear, it looks like for works that are by government authors the difference would be between mandating that access be provided and merely making access legal. So a good thing, and perhaps more than “very little” but in the end not a big difference.

No, PubMed usually just posts the abstracts. The way they do things, we pay the taxes, the taxes go to, say, NIH in the form of budget dollars. NIH may give the money to a sub-group of their own, which funds a grant to some foundation on non-profit to do the actual work. When the work is completed, the authors can allow one of the journals to publish it. And THAT is the point at which they will edit (sometimes only slightly - but you can bet there will be something) for publication, and then they demand copyright protections. Because they are NOT direct government employees, they get away with it., and with the claim that what those government dollars produced is no longer the same work. And so, even if work done by direct federal employees is public domain, you will not even know that it exists - until or unless that abstract appears. And it will still be locked up behind that journal’s paywall, unless the actual report is government published, directly. Your only access would be through a FOIA request, which could take many months, if you ever get anything at all.

That’s the existing game. So the question is - how far will this go, and will it fix that particular problem?

Edit to add: If you doubt, wander on over to PubMed and just see how many full articles you can actually download. On the flip - those government offices typically hold subscriptions services to all those journals, so if you happen to work there, you can read whatever you like, pretty much. Try that on your own from your home computer, and see what you get! (It won’t be much.)

I looked at the journal list and saw many articles that I could read and download. Although some have embargoes (12 months is by far the most common), more than half state that people have immediate access to that journal’s articles. Regarding participation level, some are listed as providing just NIH-funded articles, but more than 3/4 are listed as providing access to all their articles.

That’s a total of journal titles only. Now, try running a search on something you are interested - anything’ll do. If you can’t think of one offhand, you could try…‘mitochondrial function’. Take the list you get back That’s very broad, so the list will be a big one. So take - eh, 20 or so off the top), and start clicking around to see how many of those full articles you can actually open. Then , consider what your position would be, should you really need to know all that stuff and so need to read all those articles. Maybe, you’re an indie researcher, or maybe just a bright patient with a problem you need to know more about - doesn’t matter. Some journals will sell you a single article, but others would require you to pay hundreds or thousands for a subscription. What happens to you when the one thing you need to know is something you aren’t allowed to see, even if you paid for it to be a known thing? Is that ok? Or, no?

I used that search term and was able to view the articles from the first 20 results (sorted by default order).

It’s possible to get research articles for minimal costs via libraries. The price on the publishers website is an upper bound on what you need to pay. If you go to a public library and request an article you can get it for a few cents per page ‘service fee’ - you can order a copy mailed to your local library from a national copyright library. it’s pretty quick. You have to sign a form saying it’s not for commercial use - but if you’re making profit then it’s legitimate to pay a copyright fee to the publisher. Most authors put the accepted manuscript on their website minus the journal formatting, so if you find something on PubMed you can use the authors name and institution to find their website at university X and download the manuscript from the researchers homepage with one extra google search. The point of the announcement is to do with reviewing productivity of researchers - the news is that these funding bodies are going to introduce a legal fiction that only work published in open access journals ‘counts’ as research output going forward when it comes to allocating future funding. So a scientist who publishes in journals with a paywall will be deemed to have produced no output, and will be ranked lower than a colleague who publishes in open access titles. It’s a big deal.