Lawmakers Call for Free Access to Publicly Funded Scientific Research

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Two senators asked the Office of Science and Technology Policy to help make federally-funded research free. 

Two Democratic senators launched an effort to create policy that supports public-access for federal research programs focusing on equity, sustainable development and strategic technological development. 

In a letter sent to the director of the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Edward Markey, D-Mass, requested free public access to research publications in an effort to further scientific understanding, as well as make taxpayer-funded endeavors accessible to members of the public. 

“To truly meet the magnitude of the research and innovation needs of today’s fast-paced, globalized world…our nation needs a bold, comprehensive and government-wide public-access policy guaranteeing rapid access for all federally funded research articles with broad re-use rights,” the letter reads

Citing the subscription model many scientific and academic journals utilize to publish peer-reviewed studies, coupled with an increasing need for new research amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Wyden and Markey write that Americans need free access to scientific literature. They also note that other comparable nations, specifically the European Commission and the United Kingdom, have policies in place to promote free access to critical research.

They argue the OSTP should establish a nationwide open-access program. 

During the onset of the pandemic, the U.S. government joined other nations in asking publishers to make COVID-19 research and data free for public access, and many followed suit. The research contributed to a larger database which has been accessed over 160 million times.

Back in 2013, the OSTP did issue a memorandum that tackled this topic, dubbed “Increasing Access to the Results of Federally Funded Scientific Research,” which required free access to any given article a year after publication. Few publishers can maintain open access, however, as it often requires research authors to pay the corresponding access fees. This raises issues in funding research, breeding inequity. 

“We write to urge you [OSTP] to establish a national cross-government public-access policy for federally funded research with a focus on equity, sustainability and strategic technological development,” the letter requests.