FYI: The AIP Bulletin of Science Policy News

White House Council Issues Report on Public Access

Richard M. Jones
Number 57 - April 26, 2012  |  Search FYI  |   FYI Archives  |   Subscribe to FYI

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In fulfillment of a provision in the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010, the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) has sent a report to Congress detailing “progress toward the coordination of policies” “related to the dissemination and long-term stewardship of the results of unclassified research, including digital data and peer-reviewed scholarly publications, supported wholly or in part by funding from the Federal science agencies.”

The 15-page main body of the report, plus accompanying appendices, describes an ongoing process.  The report, entitled “Interagency Public Access Coordination, A Report to Congress on the Coordination of Policies Related to the Dissemination and Long-Term Stewardship of the Results of Federally Funded Scientific Research” was released around the time that a House subcommittee held a hearing late last month on public access to the results of federal funded scientific research.  H. Frederick Dylla, Executive Director and CEO of the American Institute of Physics (AIP), was one of five witnesses to testify at this hearing.  AIP is a publisher of scholarly journals.

The report explains: “The NSTC is a cabinet-level body that functions as the principal means within the executive branch to coordinate science and technology policy across the diverse entities that make up the Federal research and development enterprise. A primary objective of the NSTC is to establish clear national goals for Federal science and technology investments in a broad array of areas spanning virtually all the mission areas of the executive branch.”  There are five primary NSTC committees.  Two interagency groups were established on public access and digital data under the NSTC Committee on Science.  National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins, National Science Foundation Director Subra Suresh, and Carl Wieman, Associate Director for Science of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) are the co-chairs of the Committee on Science. 

The process used by the Task Force on Public Access to Scholarly Publications (PASP) to gather information in two Request for Information (RFI) notices and the Scholarly Publishing Roundtable was described.  The report comments:

“These inputs have indicated a strong support for broad public access to scholarly publications resulting from federally-supported research. Similarly, agencies and public commenters are cognizant of the essential role that publishers and the peer review system play in advancing the scientific enterprise. The PASP therefore set out to explore what steps could be taken to expand public access while preserving the value that publishers provide to the scientific enterprise, creating new business opportunities, and maximizing the economic and societal benefits of the Federal investment in research and the resulting publications.”

In a section entitled “Agency Progress,” the report describes the National Institutes of Health PubMed Central, the implementation of the National Science Foundation’s Project Outcomes Report requirement, and several programs at the Department of Energy.

Looking ahead, the report states in a section entitled “Summary and Future Steps” the following:

“To summarize, the Administration [has] been working on issues related to the management of and access to the results of federally funded scientific research. In accordance with ACRA [America COMPETES Reauthorization Act], OSTP established the Task Force on Public Access to Scholarly Publications and re-chartered the Interagency Working Group on Digital Data under the NSTC CoS [Committee on Science]. Those groups are evaluating objectives for increasing access to and improving the management of the results of federally funded scientific research.

“Three RFI’s have been issued, two on public access to scholarly publications and one on the management of digital data. Responses to those RFIs are being analyzed now, but initial results show strong public support for increasing access to scholarly publications describing the results of federally funded research and for improving scientific data management and access. The NSTC groups are continuing to consider the public comments received from the RFIs and how they should be incorporated into the objectives required by ACRA. Once they have finalized their decisions, the objectives of all three groups will be combined and presented to the CoS. There, agency leadership will consider implementation options. In addition, the CoS will help prioritize the remaining responsibilities as described in ACRA Section 103 including further public consultation and international outreach necessary for developing agency-specific policies.”

Note that in an earlier section of the report, it explains:

“It should also be stressed that it is the intention of the Administration to continue a robust dialog with the private sector and the public to ensure that policies developed will benefit the public interest and to maintain a level playing field for all interested parties.”

Richard M. Jones
Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics