Fair Access to Science and Technology Research (FASTR) Act
From SPARC, excerpts from a letter of support for the “Fair Access to Science and Technology Research (FASTR) Act” in front of Congress now,
“Every year, the federal government funds over sixty billion dollars in basic and applied research…..This research results in a significant number of articles being published each year – approximately 90,000 papers are published annually as result of NIH funding alone.”
“FASTR would require those agencies with annual extramural research budgets of $100 million or more to provide the public with online access to research manuscripts stemming from such funding no later than six months after publication in a peer-reviewed journal. The bill gives individual agencies flexibility in choosing the location of the digital repository to house this content, as long as the repositories meet conditions for public accessibility and productive reuse of digital articles, and have provisions for interoperability and long-term archiving.”
There is a lot to unpack here from such a minimal introduction, but a couple interesting and central themes behind the FASTR bill emerge.
The federal government spends an incredible amount of money on research. As much of this money is originates from tax payers, there is growing interest in making the fruits of that research available to the public, in a timely fashion.
This funding produces a significant amount of published material. The traditional scholarly communications modus operandi has been for the peer-review process and dissemination of publications to take place via scholarly journals. Problem is, many – if not most – of these journals require subscriptions or charge for articles. Bills such as FASTR, or the OSTP memo we’ve discussed previously, aim to make more of the funded funded research data and publications freely available online, thereby lowering barriers of access to other researchers around the world.
It’s all got to go somewhere. Domain specific repositories such as PubMed, BioMed Central, or arXiv have been, and are still, instrumental in making huge amounts of publicly funded research available. But as these bills peer further into the long tail of publicly funded research, other Open Access and publicly accessible destinations for this content have the potential to play an important role as well. It would appear that the FASTR bill grants funding agencies, “flexibility in choosing the location of the digital repository to house this content”, should these repositories meet requirements around technical interchangeability and long-term preservation, among others. One interesting and related requirement in the bill, pointed out in an article from the Scholarly Kitchen, is to make the deposited data and publications, “in formats and under terms that enable productive reuse, including computational analysis by state-of-the-art technologies.” While the SK article predicts a mixed reaction from libraries and publishers on this particular, it hints at exciting things afoot in the world of scholarly publishing, where increased attention to interoperability of data might mean new ways to explore and share research.
Follow the bill here: