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Federal Research Public Access Act

Rep. Mike Doyle

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Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity this morning to talk to you about bipartisan legislation I've just introduced: the Federal Research Public Access Act.

When a federally-funded researcher writes a paper, too often that paper gets locked away behind a ``pay-wall'' and anyone who wants to learn from that federally-funded research has to pay exorbitant subscription or one-time fees.

Our nation benefits when scientists are able to share their research and collaborate--sometimes across different fields of study.

The public benefits when it's able to learn about a rare disease whose only discussion is in a scientific paper. Or when science students are able to access and draw from a broad array of work by other scientists to enhance their research.

Other major funders of scientific research--especially in health--such as the U.K. government or private foundations are increasingly requiring the papers they fund to be available to the public.

Some universities such as Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Carnegie Mellon, and the University of Kansas require papers written by their professors to be made available to the public.

In 2008, the Appropriations Committee expanded the public access policy requirements of the National Institutes of Health. The NIH has since implemented an online public access system called PubMed, which has gotten tremendous support from the scientific community.

I believe we'd all benefit from greater access to cutting edge research, but several specific groups would probably benefit most: Scientists, whose research will be more broadly read; Scholars, who will have fewer barriers to obtaining the research they need and whose research will also be more broadly read; Funders, who will gain from accelerated discovery, facilitation of interdisciplinary research methodologies, preservation of vital research findings, and an improved capacity to manage their research portfolios; and Taxpayers, who will obtain economic and social benefits from the leveraging of their investment in scientific research through effects such as enhanced technology transfer, broader application of research to health care, and more informed policy development.

It's not hard to think of the high school student who wants to major in medicine or science digging around the database looking for ideas.

Nor is it hard to foresee investigators looking at research in other disciplines to get ideas they can apply to their own field.

Or a college student at an undergraduate institution getting access to a journal their college has never been able to purchase.

Or a researcher's publication getting cited more often in other studies because it's easier to find and its reach extended past its original journal's readers.

That's why I've introduced the Federal Research Public Access Act, which would require federal agencies with annual extramural research budgets of $100 million or more to provide the public with online access to research manuscripts stemming from federally funded research no later than six months after publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

My legislation is a bipartisan effort, and I thank my colleagues, Congressman Kevin Yoder of Kansas and Congressman Wm. Lacy Clay of Missouri for joining me to express their strong support for public access to federal research. I'm also pleased to note that my colleagues in the United States Senate have also introduced identical, bipartisan legislation.

I've been working on this issue since the 2006 debate on the reauthorization of the National Institutes of Heath. I'm pleased to note that since 2006, the NIH has implemented a public access policy. But it still only applies to the NIH, while research funded by other federal agencies remains difficult or expensive to access.

In 2009, the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy, OSTP, expressed interest in public access policies and issued a request for public comment on mechanisms that would leverage federal investments in scientific research and increase access to information that promises to stimulate scientific and technological innovation and competitiveness. In recent months, the OSTP continued this process by collecting a second round of public comments to inform its development of public access policies for federal agencies.

My bill would give the OSTP Congressional direction to assist it in crafting public access policies. I want OSTP to write the strongest, best rule possible. But even they need help and this legislation will provide them with guidance.

I believe that this bipartisan bill strikes a good balance among the needs of scientists, the rights of taxpayers, and the financial interests of companies that have historically published this research in peer-reviewed, usually expensive subscription publications. The bill gives publishers an exclusive six-month period in which the information will be available to subscribers, and it allows them to continue to market the additional value they add to these manuscripts when they publish them.

Mr. Speaker, I hope that we can move this bill through Congress before the end of the year.