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Sat Feb 23, 2013, 04:57 PM

Increasing Public Access to the Results of Scientific Research (MSG from White House)

I signed a WH petition re increasing access to the results of research funded with public funds and received this reply in my email. I'm not particularly pleased with the outcome as it seems tilted more strongly towards preserving the profitability of the large publishers than it does timely, increased access to the results of research. Anyway, here is the policy they are preparing:

Link to pdf of memo mentioned below:

Increasing Public Access to the Results of Scientific Research
By Dr. John Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

Thank you for your participation in the We the People platform. The Obama Administration agrees that citizens deserve easy access to the results of research their tax dollars have paid for. As you may know, the Office of Science and Technology Policy has been looking into this issue for some time and has reached out to the public on two occasions for input on the question of how best to achieve this goal of democratizing the results of federally-funded research. Your petition has been important to our discussions of this issue.

The logic behind enhanced public access is plain. We know that scientific research supported by the Federal Government spurs scientific breakthroughs and economic advances when research results are made available to innovators. Policies that mobilize these intellectual assets for re-use through broader access can accelerate scientific breakthroughs, increase innovation, and promote economic growth. Thatís why the Obama Administration is committed to ensuring that the results of federally-funded scientific research are made available to and useful for the public, industry, and the scientific community.

Moreover, this research was funded by taxpayer dollars. Americans should have easy access to the results of research they help support.

To that end, I have issued a memorandum today (.pdf) to Federal agencies that directs those with more than $100 million in research and development expenditures to develop plans to make the results of federally-funded research publically available free of charge within 12 months after original publication. As you pointed out, the public access policy adopted by the National Institutes of Health has been a great success. And while this new policy call does not insist that every agency copy the NIH approach exactly, it does ensure that similar policies will appear across government.

As I mentioned, these policies were developed carefully through extensive public consultation. We wanted to strike the balance between the extraordinary public benefit of increasing public access to the results of federally-funded scientific research and the need to ensure that the valuable contributions that the scientific publishing industry provides are not lost. This policy reflects that balance, and it also provides the flexibility to make changes in the future based on experience and evidence. For example, agencies have been asked to use a 12-month embargo period as a guide for developing their policies, but also to provide a mechanism for stakeholders to petition the agency to change that period. As agencies move forward with developing and implementing these polices, there will be ample opportunity for further public input to ensure they are doing the best possible job of reconciling all of the relevant interests.

In addition to addressing the issue of public access to scientific publications, the memorandum requires that agencies start to address the need to improve upon the management and sharing of scientific data produced with Federal funding. Strengthening these policies will promote entrepreneurship and jobs growth in addition to driving scientific progress. Access to pre-existing data sets can accelerate growth by allowing companies to focus resources and efforts on understanding and fully exploiting discoveries instead of repeating basic, pre-competitive work already documented elsewhere. For example, open weather data underpins the forecasting industry and provides great public benefits, and making human genome sequences publically available has spawned many biomedical innovationsónot to mention many companies generating billions of dollars in revenues and the jobs that go with them. Going forward, wider availability of scientific data will create innovative economic markets for services related to data curation, preservation, analysis, and visualization, among others.

So thank you again for your petition. I hope you will agree that the Administration has done its homework and responded substantively to your request.

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Reply Increasing Public Access to the Results of Scientific Research (MSG from White House) (Original post)
kristopher Feb 2013 OP
Igel Feb 2013 #1
goldent Feb 2013 #2

Response to kristopher (Original post)

Sat Feb 23, 2013, 11:54 PM

1. I used to think this was a problem.

In the last 5 years, less so. Not just because you can find pop-sci summaries of things online fairly easily--and that's what most people can handle. But because here are more pressing problems and when the research is available to the public, the first thing that many do is abuse it.

Even pop-sci writers are miserable at using the results of research. Recently read one stunningly bad article that summarized research, drew independent conclusions, and in the last paragraph gave the definitions of the terms used in the research. The definitions negated any possibility of the conclusions that the writer drew.

Pop-sci writers are almost as bad as education researchers.

Anyway, my current problem with publicizing research findings is the selectiveness of publication. One lab group I was sort of adjacent to had a lot of publications, but far more research. When it became obvious years after publication that they screwed up, they reviewed their original data as well as the reams of data that they had discounted as meaningless. The reams of additional data didn't support their thesis. Therefore it was ignored. That it supported another thesis wasn't important.

This was in a field where data is fairly freely shared. However, since the additional data wasn't the basis of any publication, there was no reason anybody would request it--nor was there any reason for anybody to feel an ethical responsibility for sharing it. The "no useful results" experiments and data vanished until the results were suddenly useful.

This was all paid for with NIH and NSF money. But the "no results" experiments and data weren't in the reports. It only became useful and acquired salience when other NIH and NSF money was spent to repeat the experiments ("for the first time" in other labs.

(1) Waste of resources that would make Peirce blush.
(2) Lack of dissemination of negative results and the data that could have pushed the field forward faster.

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Response to kristopher (Original post)

Sun Feb 24, 2013, 04:26 PM

2. Definitely reads like they want to protect the publishers

I have mixed feelings on protecting the publishers, but in any case, this administration doesn't sound like they are doing to do anything substantial. Having to wait a year after publication before there is free access is just too long.

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