Much of the following information is excerpted with permission from the May 2, 2010 report by Peter Suber for the SPARC Open Access Newsletter [SOAN; www.earlham.edu/~peters/fos/newsletter/05-02-10.htm].
Six Representatives from two parties introduced the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA, H.R. 5037) in the House of Representatives on April 15, 2010. The bill would essentially extend the existing open access (OA) mandate for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) across all of the major funding agencies in the U.S. federal government. FRPAA is already pending in the Senate and now has a serious shot at adoption, according to Suber. The sponsors want OA, not just a trial balloon or a symbolic flag in the ground.
FRPAA mandates OA for unclassified research funded in whole or part by the largest federal funding agencies. The cutoff is whether an agency spends $100 million/year or more on extramural research. This year that covers 11 agencies: the 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.
According to Suber, FRPAA would liberate more research literature than any other policy ever proposed in any country. If adopted, it would do more for the worldwide momentum of OA than any step in our history and more than any step on the horizon.
While the scope of the bill depends on agency budgets for extramural research (research by agency grantees as opposed to agency employees), the OA mandate in the bill applies to intramural research as well (research by employees).
Apart from its wider scope, FRPAA differs from the NIH policy in a four respects:
(1) It would shorten the maximum permissible embargo to 6 months.
(2) It would require immediate OA, or eliminate embargoes entirely, for intramural research.
(3) It would offer more flexibility about the OA repositories in which to deposit work. Agencies could host their own repositories, as the NIH does, or ask grantees to deposit into third-party repositories, such as their own institutional repositories, provided the repositories met certain conditions of OA, interoperability, and long-term preservation.
(4) It would offer more flexibility on how to secure permission for the mandated OA, or how to avoid copyright infringement. It supports the battle-tested NIH method but opens the door to additional methods. For details, see the Suber article on the 2009 introduction of the Senate version of the bill (www.earlham.edu/~peters/fos/newsletter/08-02-09.htm#frpaa).
Just as Congress asked NIH to develop an OA mandate, without dictating the details, FRPAA asks agencies to come up with their own policies within the general guidelines laid down in the bill. It's not a one-size-fits-all solution and agencies are free to differ on the details. They would have one year from the bill's passage to frame their own policies.
Two federal agencies already operate under OA mandates: the NIH and the Institute of Education Sciences. Both allow 12 month embargoes and FRPAA would trim them back to 6. In that sense, FRPAA not only extends but also strengthens the existing federal mandates.
John Cornyn (R-TX) and Joe Lieberman (D-CT) first introduced FRPAA in the Senate in May 2006, when it was never matched by a House version and never came up for a vote. Cornyn and Lieberman reintroduced it early in the current session of Congress, June 2009, and now for the first time, the bill is on the table in both the House and the Senate. Because the House and Senate versions are identical, no reconciliation would be needed if both passed. "We've never had such a good shot at passing this watershed legislation," wrote Suber.
White House Initiative
The House introduction of FRPAA comes while the White House is considering its own OA initiative. Late last year (Dec. 9, 2009) the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) called for public comments on "enhancing public access to archived publications resulting from research funded by Federal science and technology agencies." Comments were originally due on Jan. 7, 2010, but the deadline was extended until Jan. 21, 2010.
The comments are available here: www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2010/03/08/public-access-policy-update
Opposition From Publishers
Publishers are throwing their support instead behind a bill that opposes agency OA mandates, known as the Fair Copyright in Research Works Act (HR 801), introduced in February by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI). For details, see the document posted by the Professional/Scholarly Publishing (PSP) Division of the Association of American Publishers: "Key Points: How the Fair Copyright in Research Works Act Protects Copyright and Advances Science and Scientific Publishing (www.pspcentral.org/PSPFairCopyrightKeyPoints.cfm).
"The Federal Research Public Access Act of 2006," by Robin Peek, May 8, 2006:
THOMAS pages on the bill-Federal Research Public Access Act:
--In the Senate (S.1373)
--In the House (H.R. 5037)
Announcement from the Alliance for Taxpayer Access
The Association of American Publishers and DC Principles Coalition released their April 29 letter to the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform, opposing FRPAA.
Fair Copyright in Research Works Act (HR 801)