The House Science, Space and Technology Committee yesterday approved an important bipartisan provision offered by Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) for speedier public access to basic scientific research that would have had lengthy delays imposed under H.R. 4186, the Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science, and Technology (FIRST) Act.  In a mark-up vote by the committee, lawmakers chose to adopt the Sensenbrenner-Lofgren provision reducing the embargo period on accessing federally funded peer-reviewed research to twelve months, in line with the industry standard, instead of the FIRST Act’s proposed and arbitrary two-to-three year embargo period.

Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner: “This amendment is a strong compromise between competing interests. While not the wish list of either the publishers or the open access community, it meets the ultimate goal of providing taxpayer access to federally-funded research. It benefits all Americans when their tax dollars are used to craft life changing ideas rather than to fund articles with tax dollars only to have them sit behind pay walls. The American taxpayer has paid for this research and deserves access to its results.”  

Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren: “While the FIRST Act still needs improvement, I am happy my colleagues agree on the principle that the public should have more open access to taxpayer-funded research. It’s not in the public’s interest to put up barriers to taxpayer-supported basic scientific research because it lays the groundwork for future discoveries.  Greater public access accelerates the kind of robust collaboration that can turn this research into the building blocks for breakthroughs that have immense benefits for the public and our economy.”

The Sensenbrenner-Lofgren amendment writes into law a process proposed by the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) after extensive input from stakeholders—including the publishing industry—for agencies engaged in scientific research like the National Science Foundation (NSF) to institute a twelve-month embargo on peer-reviewed research.  The amendment also offers flexibility by providing an additional six-month extension if stakeholders can demonstrate the public interest would be substantially or uniquely harmed by a one-year embargo.