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Tuesday, October 27, 2015 News

White House Commits to Open Access, Open Education and Open Data in New Open Government Plan

Open Education

Today the White House released its 2016-2017 Open Government National Action Plan, which includes commitments to expand access to open educational resources and the results of federally funded research. This exciting development shows continued support from the Obama administration for these issues, and sets the stage for continued progress beyond the 2016 elections.

The commitment to Open Education has been highly anticipated by the community since this summer, after more than 100 U.S. civil society organizations — including SPARC — sent a letter to the White House calling for strong executive action to make federally funded educational resources openly licensed. While the OER commitment released today stops short of the broad policy changes that civil society called for, it lays out several meaningful steps in the right direction.

The OER commitment begins with a strong statement in support of the benefits of open educational resources:

Open educational resources are an investment in sustainable human development; they have the potential to increase access to high-quality education and reduce the cost of educational opportunities around the world. Open educational resources can expand access to key educational materials, enabling the domestic and international communities to attain skills and more easily access meaningful learning opportunities.

It also specifies three activities the U.S. will take to advance open education:

  • Openly license more Federal grant-supported education materials and resources, making them widely and freely available.
  • Publish best practices and tools for agencies interested in developing grant-supported open licensing projects.
  • Convene stakeholders to encourage further open education efforts.

The OER commitment builds on momentum that has grown since the U.S. became the first Open Government Partnership (OGP) member country to introduce open education into its National Action Plan last fall. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), State Department and Education Department recently held a workshop in New York City to fulfill one of the commitments in this plan, which was recently featured in a White House blog post.

On the Open Access and Open Data fronts, the plan released today reiterates U.S.’s firm commitment to opening access to articles resulting from publicly-funded research, citing the language from the 2013 OSTP Directive on this subject. Additionally, the plan calls for robust attention ensuring that data — including code, applications and technologies — generated from publicly-funded research be made openly accessible as well. This is a strong nod to an eventual full U.S. Open Science Agenda.

The plan’s release also coincides with the Open Government Partnership Summit in Mexico City, where for the first time ever, a workshop on open education is featured in the program. SPARC’s Nicole Allen is on the ground helping to organize the session, along with the U.S. and Slovak Governments and Creative Commons United States. We are hopeful that this session can begin laying the groundwork for collaboration between the government and civil societies to implement the U.S. commitment announced today and open education overall.

SPARC stands with our coalition partners ready to continue the conversation with the White House and federal agencies to help implement the commitment announced today, and to reinforce our call for a federal government-wide policy to ensure that taxpayer funded educational and research materials are openly licensed.

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