H.R. 3427 / S. 1701, the bipartisan Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), will 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. FASTR was introduced in the US House of Representatives on July 26, 2017, co-sponsored by Representatives Kevin Yoder (R-KS-3), Mike Doyle (D-PA-14), and Zoe Lofgren, (D-CA-19), and in the Senate on August 2, 2017, by Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Ron Wyden (D-OR).
The Senate version, S. 1701, incorporates changes made to the text before the bill passed unanimously out of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in the 114th Congress. The primary difference is that the Senate bill extends the maximum allowable embargo period from six to twelve months.
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 directly fund this research, they have a right to expect that its distribution and use will be maximized, and that they themselves will have access to it.
The government funds research with the expectation that new ideas and discoveries resulting from that research will advance science, stimulate innovation, grow the economy, and improve the lives and welfare of Americans. The Internet makes it possible to advance these goals by providing public online access to federally funded research, and has revolutionized information sharing by enabling prompt sharing of the latest advances with every scientist, physician, educator, entrepreneur and citizen.
Now more than ever, a critical challenge faced by industry today is gaining quick access to research for commercial application, to spur investment in development of new innovative products. Businesses—small and large—need faster access to this information to be competitive in the global marketplace.
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. The House version would require articles be publicly accessible no later than six months after publication in a peer-reviewed journal, while the Senate version would allow up to a twelve-month embargo. 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.
In February 2013, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) issued a Directive, that requires the results of taxpayer-funded research—both articles and data—be made freely available to the general public with the goal of accelerating scientific discovery and fueling innovation. While to date, most agencies and departments covered by the Directive have released initial plans (including the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, the Department of Health and Human Services, and NASA) as is always the case, a Directive is not permanent law and can be changed. In addition, without the power of law, federal agencies and departments can ignore an executive order – or more so slowly on implementation as to render it essentially useless.
FASTR will ensure these articles are made 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.
FASTR was first introduced in the 113th Congress. In July 2015, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee unanimously passed the bill by voice vote.
- SPARC FAQ on FASTR
- SPARC Action Center for FASTR
- House Co-Sponsors’ FASTR Press Release
- Peter Suber’s FASTR resource page at the Harvard Open Access Project
- NIH’s fact sheet on the NIH public access policy
- Open Access Working Group letter in support of FASTR
- Report from the Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee