Federal Research Public Access Act: Updates and Commentaries

Since the Federal Reseach Public Access Act has been recently come before the House of Representatives and the Senate, there has been a flurry of articles (for and against) the legistlation.

Federal Research Access Bill Making Progress in Congress,  Library Journal.com, 4/22/2010


Baby steps toward legislation: the broad open access mandate known as The Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA) is now before the House of Representatives as well as the Senate, following its introduction by Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA) last week. Both versions are substantially the same, and with the bill now before both legislative bodies, has at least the potential of becoming law.

During prepared remarks on a press conference call Wednesday morning hosted by the Alliance for Taxpayer Access, Doyle said, “I hope that we can move this bill through Congress before the end of the year.”

. . . FRPAA was re-introduced into the Senate last year. It would require every federal department and agency with an annual extramural research budget of $100 million or more to make their research available to the public within six months of publication. (A similar bill, introduced in the Senate in 2006, died in committee.)

The bill covers all unclassified research funded by agencies including the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Transportation, Environmental Protection, as well as the National Science Foundation and NASA.

The bill also would ostensibly trump the current 12-month embargo specified by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) mandate—on which FRPAA is directly modeled—by rolling the embargo period back to six months.

SPARC FAQ for University Administrators and Faculty – SPARC has put together a helpful FAQ to answer the most pressing questions about FRPAA.

  1. What does the legislation entail?
  2. Who will be affected?
  3. What does the legislation mean for investigators?
  4. What does it mean for higher education institutions?
  5. Why is this legislation needed?
  6. Couldn’t agencies do this without legislative action?
  7. Is the legislation a threat to journals and the peer review they perform?
  8. Will the availability of multiple versions of an article create problems?
  9. Will this legislation take funding away from research?
  10. Does this legislation affect copyright or patent laws?
  11. How can I support the bill and where can I get more information about it?

Provosts and Presidents of 27 Major Research Institutions Support FRPAA – In “The Open Letter to the Higher Education Community” issued by the Harvard University Provost, the provosts (including UI’s Wallace Loh) and presidents of 27 major research institutions have indicated their strong support for the Federal Research Public Access Act.


The United States Congress will have the opportunity to consider the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA). FRPAA would require Federal agencies whose extramural research budgets exceed $100 million to develop policies ensuring open, public access to the research supported by their grants or conducted by their employees. This Bill embodies core ideals shared by higher education, research institutions and their partners everywhere. The Bill builds upon the success of the first U.S. policy for public access to publicly funded research – implemented in 2008 through the National Institutes of Health – and mirrors the intent of campus-based policies for research access that are being adopted by a growing number of public and private institutions across the nation.

We believe that this legislation represents a watershed and provides an opportunity for the entire U.S. higher education and research community to draw upon their traditional partnerships and collaboratively realize the unquestionably good intentions of the Bill’s framers – broadening access to publicly funded research in order to accelerate the advancement of knowledge and maximize the related public good. By ensuring broad and diverse access to taxpayer-funded research the Bill also supports the intuitive and democratic principle that, with reasonable exceptions for issues of national security, the public ought to have access to the results of activities it funds.

The broad dissemination of the results of scholarly inquiry and discourse is essential for higher education to fulfill its long-standing commitment to the advancement and conveyance of knowledge. Indeed, it is mission critical. For the land-grant and publicly funded institutions among us, it addresses the complementary commitment to public service and public access that is included in our charters. In keeping with this mission, we agree with FRPAA’s basic premise that enabling the broadest possible access to new ideas resulting from government-funded research promotes progress, economic growth, and public welfare. Furthermore, we know that, when combined with public policy such as FRPAA proposes, the Internet and digital technology are powerful tools for removing access barriers and enabling new and creative uses of the results of research.

Letter Opposing FRPPA – The Association of American Publishers and the DC Principles Coalition released their April 29 letter to the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform, opposing FRPAA.


On behalf of many publisher members of the Professional and Scholarly Publishing division of the Association of American Publishers, the DC Principles Coalition, and other leading publishers, we are writing to express our strong opposition to the Federal Research Public Access Act, H.R. 5037. This bill would require that final manuscripts of peer-reviewed, private-sector journal articles reporting on federally-funded research be made freely available on government-run websites no later than six months after publication. This unnecessary legislation would undermine copyright and adversely impact the existing peer review system that ensures the high quality of scientific and other scholarly research in the United States. In addition, it would impose costly new mandates on federal agencies.

The diverse publishers whose concerns are shared by the undersigned are responsible for coordinating the publication of thousands of journals reporting on basic research and original scholarship, disseminating collectively tens of thousands of refereed research articles by U.S.-funded researchers annually. H.R. 5037 would diminish copyright protections for these private-sector scientific journal articles. The government mandate proposed by this legislation would result in the government distribution of copyrighted journal articles without compensation. Copyright is essential to protecting these works and to preserving incentives for the private sector to continue to invest in peer review, editing, publishing, and maintaining the electronic record of vetted scientific journal articles.

A Scholarly Kitchen Blog post, by Philip Davis, states:

While much is known about how researchers make use of the scientific literature, much less is known about the consumption of scientific literature by the general public.  Other than anecdotal descriptions — say, of patients bringing medical literature they found online into the doctor’s office — little is known about how the lay public uses the primary literature (e.g., scholarly journal articles) compared to public-focused websites, blogs, and discussion lists.

What is known is that Americans are going online seeking health information.

Read on at: http://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2010/04/22/frpaa-science-and-the-public-good/