Bill to expand online access to research

Senators have introduced the first bill mandating that taxpayers receive free online access to journal articles containing federally funded research within six months of the articles’ publication.

Co-sponsors Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) announced yesterday that the Federal Research Public Access Act of 2006 would require agencies with annual research budgets of more than $100 million to implement a public access policy granting faster access to research supported by those agencies.

That agency policy would ensure that each researcher, whether partially or completely funded by the agency, submits an electronic copy of the final manuscript accepted for publication.

The legislation also details the types of technologies agencies must use to make the information available.

Agencies would have to preserve the manuscripts in a stable, digital repository that provides free public access, interoperability and long-term preservation.

Eleven agencies fall under the legislation: the Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, and Transportation departments, and the Environmental Protection Agency, NASA and National Science Foundation.

"Making this information available to the public will lead to faster discoveries, innovations and cures," Cornyn said. "This bill will give the American taxpayer a greater return on its research investment."

"Taxpayer-funded research should be accessible to taxpayers,” Lieberman said. “Our bill will give researchers, medical professionals and patients in Connecticut and throughout the nation access to scientific discoveries and advancements that can help bring new treatments and cures to the public."

The National Institutes of Health recently implemented a similar but less stringent policy, which asks NIH-funded scientists to submit copies of their peer-reviewed research manuscripts voluntarily to the NIH’s online archive, known as PubMed Central. Those manuscripts are made available to the public within a year after publication.

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