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OA Roundup: FASTR Moves Forward; New Controlled Vocabulary Supports Repositories
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Posted On August 11, 2015
In late July, the open access (OA) arena saw advancements on both ends of the policy and practice spectrum. In terms of policy, proposed legislation in the U.S. for improved public access to publicly funded research moved closer to a Senate vote. Meanwhile, an international group of OA practitioners proposed a controlled vocabulary for resource types to help harmonize materials across repositories. Both steps, in entirely different ways, aim to improve the availability and therefore the uptake of openly accessible research.

FASTR Takes One Step Forward in the U.S. Senate

On July 29, the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research (FASTR) Act (S. 779 and H.R. 1477) was approved by voice vote by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. The proposed legislation would require federal departments and agencies with research expenditures of $100 million or more to make the peer-reviewed versions of research they fund—or research their employees conduct—publicly available via open repositories within 12 months of publication.

According to the text of the proposed bill:

  1. the Federal Government funds basic and applied research with the expectation that new ideas and discoveries that result from the research, if shared and effectively disseminated, will advance science and improve the lives and welfare of people of the United States and around the world;
  2. the Internet makes it possible for this information to be promptly available to every scientist, physician, educator, and citizen at home, in school, or in a library; and
  3. the United States has a substantial interest in maximizing the impact and utility of the research it funds by enabling a wide range of reuses of the peer-reviewed literature that reports the results of such research, including by enabling computational analysis by state-of-the-art technologies.

Research funded in part or in full by the following departments would be affected: Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, and Transportation, as well as the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and National Science Foundation (NSF). Peer-reviewed journal articles are covered by FASTR, although classified research and other types of scholarship such as laboratory notes, preliminary data analyses, and author notes are excluded.

FASTR is consistent with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) memo issued Feb. 22, 2013, Increasing Access to the Results of Federally Funded Scientific Research, which similarly required all of the major research funding agencies to draft and implement public access policies. However, an important difference is that, if passed, FASTR would ensure that this policy stays in place once the Obama administration leaves office.

Major library-related organizations, including the American Library Association (ALA) and SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition), have been strong advocates for FASTR. Sari Feldman, president of ALA, noted in a press release, “The public has a right to access government-funded information. … This legislation provides the public—which includes students in libraries and schools across the nation—with opportunities to learn and grow from scholarly research.”

SPARC offers a list of ways in which individuals can help advocate for FASTR. Suggestions include calling and writing to senators and trying to engage with them via social media such as Twitter with #MoveFASTR.

The next step for FASTR will be a full Senate vote. FASTR was first introduced in 2013, although approval by the Senate committee is a big milestone. FASTR was also introduced in the House of Representatives but has not yet made it through committee. As SPARC executive director Heather Joseph said in a press release, “While we recognize this is just the first step in a long process, it is a significant one. We call on all Members of Congress to follow the [Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs] Committee’s lead and will work closely with them as FASTR progresses.”

FASTR was introduced by senators John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and representatives Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), Kevin Yoder (R-Kansas), and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.).

COAR Introduces Controlled Vocabulary for Resource Types

On the opposite end of the implementation spectrum is the release of a new controlled vocabulary for resource types. The Confederation of Open Access Repositories’ (COAR) Controlled Vocabularies for Repository Assets Interest Group published a first draft for public review of a vocabulary that “defines concepts to identify the genre of a resource,” which can be used across repositories. Resource genres include categories such as text, images, and software, all of which are then broken out into further subcategories.

Recommended terms are presented via hierarchical relationships, and terms are presented in multiple languages, along with related, narrower, and broader terms.

This first draft of the Resource Type Vocabulary is open for public discussion and commentary through Oct. 1, 2015.


Abby Clobridge is the founder of and principal consultant at FireOak Strategies (formerly Clobridge Consulting), a boutique firm specializing in knowledge management, information management, and open knowledge (open access, open data, open education). Abby has worked with a wide range of organizations throughout the world, including various United Nations agencies; private sector companies; colleges and research universities; nonprofit, intergovernmental, and multi-stakeholder organizations; and the news media. She can be found on Twitter (@aclobridge).

Email Abby Clobridge

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