Policy & Advocacy

U.S. National Cancer Moonshot Initiative

Open Access   ·   Open Data

In his State of the Union address on January 12, 2016, President Barack Obama announced the establishment of a new National Cancer Moonshot Initiative to accelerate cancer research. Led by Vice President Joe Biden, the goal of this initiative is to “achieve in just 5 years research and treatment gains that otherwise might take a decade or more”.

Over the course of many months, Vice President Joe Biden met with thousands of stakeholders across all sectors, seeking suggestions for how to remove the barriers that are currently blocking progress in science, research, and development.

SPARC engaged in this effort and provided the White House with the following recommendations:

  • Enable free, immediate access to all U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI) funded research articles. The free and immediate access to all NCI-funded research articles would put a wealth of information about the latest discoveries, trends and insights about cancer research into the hands of scientists and researchers who need it today. Any delay in the availability of this research is a potential barrier to innovation, and unnecessarily restricts competent and creative individuals from contributing to the discovery process.
  • Make the research data reported on in these articles immediately available upon publication. This would allow researchers to quickly verify the claims made in papers, substantially cutting down time spent on misleading information or dead ends. It also empowers the community to innovate by conducting new and different analysis of this crucial digital information.
  • Reward researchers for sharing their research articles and data freely and quickly. Right now, researchers are not incentivized to share their research outputs quickly. Rather, they are rewarded for holding onto their data, and for publishing articles in so-called “high impact” journals that take months (and in some cases, years) to approve papers for publication. We need to realign incentives for the sharing of research outputs that support the public’s interest – and that interest includes accelerating treatments and cures for cancer. U.S. federal agencies funding cancer research should incentivize researchers to share data and articles widely by actively rewarding this behavior in their promotion and funding processes.

In September 2016, the Blue Ribbon Panel issued a set of recommendations for how the Cancer Moonshot can achieve its goals. The report, recommendations, and supplemental materials can be found on the National Cancer Institute website.


Fact Sheet from the White House on the Cancer Moonshot Initiative
SPARC letter to the Vice-President
Biden announces offices at University of Delaware & University of Pennsylvania to continue Cancer Moonshot work
Vice-President’s speech at the Davos World Economic Forum
Vice-President’s speech at the American Association for Cancer Research
Vice-President’s speech at Health Datapalooza


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