Public Access and Federal Agencies: Staying the Course

Dartmouth’s Scholarly Communication, Copyright and Publishing Program actively supports researchers and scholars to fulfill the requirements from funding agencies, whether federal government or private foundations, to make the results of funded research publicly available to the taxpayers and other stakeholders responsible for the funding. With the dramatic changes in the U.S. federal government agencies, some have wondered about the fate of these public access requirements. It is important to note that the support for tax payer access to the results of funded research has always been a bi-partisan issue,and that governmental public access programs are integrated into policies and procedures at this point, and private funders like the Gates Foundation have asserted the importance of public access. That said, for those who want to follow the developments, here are a few recent posts:

David Wojick, a part time Senior Consultant for Innovation at OSTI, the Office of Scientific and Technical Information, in the Office of Science of the US Department of Energy, has a useful blog called insidepublicaccess. Wojick’s blog has recently featured posts on tracking the movements of the Trump Administration as it pertains to open access to and support of science and technology.

It is difficult to determine the longer term impact of statements and actions because they change so rapidly. Daily changes surrounding these and other federal issues has created a sense of chaos. However, following is a summary of recent ones related to public access, in an attempt to acknowledge the progression of actions and statements.

In November 2016, James Carafano (Heritage Foundation), was identified as a member of the “landing team” for the Department of Homeland Security. Carafano was the lead author of a Heritage Foundation report released during summer entitled “Science Policy: Priorities and Reforms for the 45th President.” While the report covers many issues surrounding science policy reform, one of the report’s strongest recommendations is the elimination of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy(OSTP). The OSTP has been a major source for federal funding for science and technology research.

In December 2016, the head of the Department of Energy transition team was replaced.  The DOE has been a leading developing the Public Access Program, which requires scholarship funded by federal grants to be free and open to the public who pay taxes to support these kinds of grants. The future of the Public Access Program will be determined by the heads of Federals Agencies, some of which have yet to be defined.

Late January 2017, The Office of Science and Technology Policy website was removed. It is now archived on the Obama Administration’s website

Late January 2017, Wojick writes via the Open Scholarship Initiative (OSI) listserv that as of now, the OSTP will remain and notes that science has typically had bipartisan support, and may still do well under the Trump Administration.

Late January 2017, there were “reports of the Trump administration’s attempts to order media blackouts of federal agencies.” The American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom posted a statement condemning government agency censorship.

January 29, 2017, Ars Technica published an article noting the chaotic and confusing start to the Trump Administration’s actions surrounding support for science and technology research.  The article points out that decisions made one day have been redacted the next, thereby creating confusion and uncertainty. Of notable concern right now are vanishing webpages, which are now archived on Obama Administration website.

Much work has already been done to create frameworks for new Federal Agency heads to follow as they make decision about open access to research and scholarship.  One of these frameworks is the Federal Agency Open Licensing Playbook

It is important to keep the fundamental principles of public access to funded research in mind! 

Please contact us in the Scholarly Communication, Copyright and Publishing Program with questions! 

Barbara DeFelice and Jen Green

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