On March 18, 2015, Senators Cornyn (R-TX) and Wyden (D-OR) and Representatives Doyle (D-PA), Yoder (R-KS), and Lofgren (D-CA) introduced S. 779/H.R. 1477, the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research (FASTR) Act of 2015. The goals of this bill are to accelerate scientific discovery and fuel innovation by making articles reporting on publicly funded scientific research freely accessible online for anyone to read and build upon.
On July 29, 2015, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs approved S.779 (as amended) by unanimous voice vote. The Committee issued its required report on March 8, 2016. The next step will be for the full Senate to vote on the FASTR Act. The timing of this action is unknown.
Every year, the federal government funds over sixty billion dollars in basic and applied research, and most of this funding is concentrated within 11 departments/agencies. This research results in a significant number of articles being published each year – approximately 100,000 papers are published annually as result of NIH funding alone.
Because U.S. taxpayers underwrite this research, they have a right to expect that its dissemination and use will be maximized, and that they will have access to articles reporting on the results. The Internet has revolutionized information sharing and has made it possible to make the latest advances freely available to every researcher, student, teacher, entrepreneur, business owner and citizen so that the results can be read and built upon as efficiently as possible.
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 twelve 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.
The bill specifically covers unclassified research funded by the following agencies: Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, Department of Education, Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Transportation, Environmental Protection Agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the National Science Foundation.
FASTR reflects the growing trend among funding agencies – and college and university campuses – to leverage their investment in the conduct of research by maximizing the dissemination of results. It follows the successful path forged by the NIH’s Public Access Policy, as well as the growing trend in adoption of similar policies by international funders, private funders and dozens of U.S. higher-education institutions.
FASTR will make these articles freely available for all potential users to read and ensure that articles can be fully used in the digital environment, enabling the use of new computational analysis tools that promise to revolutionize the research process.