White House Council Issues Report on Public Access

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Publication date: 
26 April 2012

In  fulfillment of a provision in the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010,  the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) has sent a report to  Congress detailing “progress toward the coordination of policies” “related to  the dissemination and     long-term  stewardship of the results of unclassified research, including digital data and  peer-reviewed scholarly publications, supported wholly or in part by funding  from the Federal science agencies.”

The  15-page main body of the report, plus accompanying appendices, describes an  ongoing process.  The report, entitled “Interagency  Public Access Coordination, A Report to Congress on the Coordination of  Policies Related to the Dissemination and Long-Term Stewardship of the Results  of Federally Funded Scientific Research”was released around the time that a House subcommittee held a hearing late last  month on public access to the results of federal funded scientific research.  H. Frederick Dylla, Executive Director and  CEO of the American Institute of Physics (AIP), was one of five witnesses to  testify at this hearing.  AIP is a publisher of scholarly journals.

The  report explains: “The NSTC is a cabinet-level body that functions as the  principal means within the executive branch to coordinate science and  technology policy across the diverse entities that make up the Federal research  and development enterprise. A primary objective of the NSTC is to establish  clear national goals for Federal science and technology investments in a broad  array of areas spanning virtually all the mission areas of the executive  branch.”  There are five primary NSTC committees.  Two interagency groups were established on  public access and digital data under the NSTC Committee on Science.  National Institutes of Health Director  Francis Collins, National Science Foundation Director Subra Suresh, and Carl  Wieman, Associate Director for Science of the Office of Science and Technology Policy  (OSTP) are the co-chairs of the Committee on Science. 

The  process used by the Task Force on Public Access to Scholarly Publications (PASP)  to gather information in two Request for Information (RFI) notices and the  Scholarly Publishing Roundtable  was  described.  The report comments:

“These  inputs have indicated a strong support for broad public access to scholarly  publications resulting from federally-supported research. Similarly, agencies  and public commenters are cognizant of the essential role that publishers and  the peer review system play in advancing the scientific enterprise. The PASP  therefore set out to explore what steps could be taken to expand public access  while preserving the value that publishers provide to the scientific  enterprise, creating new business opportunities, and maximizing the economic  and societal benefits of the Federal investment in research and the resulting  publications.”

In  a section entitled “Agency Progress,” the report describes the National  Institutes of Health PubMed Central, the implementation of the National Science  Foundation’s Project Outcomes Report requirement, and several programs at the  Department of Energy.

Looking  ahead, the report states in a section entitled “Summary and Future Steps” the  following:

“To  summarize, the Administration [has] been working on issues related to the  management of and access to the results of federally funded scientific  research. In accordance with ACRA [America COMPETES Reauthorization Act], OSTP  established the Task Force on Public Access to Scholarly Publications and  re-chartered the Interagency Working Group on Digital Data under the NSTC CoS  [Committee on Science]. Those groups are evaluating objectives for increasing  access to and improving the management of the results of federally funded  scientific research.

“Three  RFI’s have been issued, two on public access to scholarly publications and one  on the management of digital data. Responses to those RFIs are being analyzed  now, but initial results show strong public support for increasing access to  scholarly publications describing the results of federally funded research and  for improving scientific data management and access. The NSTC groups are  continuing to consider the public comments received from the RFIs and how they  should be incorporated into the objectives required by ACRA. Once they have  finalized their decisions, the objectives of all three groups will be combined  and presented to the CoS. There, agency leadership will consider implementation  options. In addition, the CoS will help prioritize the remaining  responsibilities as described in ACRA Section 103 including further public  consultation and international outreach necessary for developing agency-specific  policies.”

Note  that in an earlier section of the report, it explains:

“It  should also be stressed that it is the intention of the Administration to  continue a robust dialog with the private sector and the public to ensure that  policies developed will benefit the public interest and to maintain a level  playing field for all interested parties.”