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House Bill Proposes a Federal Open-Access Policy

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Congressman Mike Doyle (D – Penn.) has introduced a bill in the House of Representatives that would require that the results from nearly all publicly-funded research be made available online within six months after they are published in a peer-reviewed journal.

The Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA) of 2010 (H.R. 5037) would apply to research from all federal agencies with annual extramural research budgets over $100 million.

Such a law would apply to research funded by all of the institutes and centers of the Department of Health and Human Services, such as the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the Department of Energy, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Defense, and others.

NIH already has a similar policy to guide open publication for extramural research that it funds, although the rules it instituted in 2008 give researchers one year to make their research results available after they are published in journals.

Doyle's bill is a revival of the 2009 version of FRPAA, cosponsored by Senators Joe Lieberman (I – Conn.) and John Cornyn (R – Texas), but the push for an open access policy that goes beyond NIH has not been limited to bills in Congress.

The Obama Administration also is developing its policy to provide public access for taxpayer-funded research, and in December 2009 as part of its Open Government Initiative it began seeking comments from interested parties on what forms its polices should take.

That policy likely would in some ways be modeled after NIH's, but the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy said in a Federal Register announcement that "the best models may be influenced by agency mission, the culture and rate of scientific development of the discipline, funding to develop archival capabilities, and research funding mechanisms."

"Free and open information to scientific literature and data are the underpinnings of discovery in the digital age," Sage Bionetworks' President and Co-Founder Stephen Friend said in a statement put out by the Alliance for Taxpayer Access, a group that advocates for open access to federally funded research results.

"The current system for exchanging the results of research is deeply flawed, and major changes – like this bill – are required," Karen Hanson, provost and executive VP at Indiana University, added.

The FRPAA bill now awaits review by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.