In 2012 a public petition was made to the Whitehouse proposing that the public should have free access to the outcomes of scientific research that they have funded. Over 65000 people signed and this week the Obama administration has responded with a resounding, “Yes, we can.” While the US National Institutes of Health has had a public access policy for years (which “requires scientists to submit final peer-reviewed journal manuscripts that arise from NIH funds to the digital archive PubMed Central upon acceptance for publication“), the announcement this week goes much further. Any research with a budget of over $100m will be expected to be made publicly available within 12 months of original publication. “The logic behind this is plain,” says the statement, to provide access to taxpayer-funded research to innovators in industry, science and the public generally. It cites the “great success” of the NIH policy, which is to be used as a guide to other agencies now coming under this new one.
The discussion that has ensued has centred on the fact that 12 months after publication is hardly lightening fast and the level of budget threshold (which sounds like a lot to NZers). Nevertheless, it is generally being hailed as a landmark announcement in the adoption of Open Access as the default.
A key reason for this is that the statement also “requires that agencies start to address the need to improve upon the management and sharing of scientific data produced with Federal funding.” This goes further than the UK’s Finch report and the announcements by Australia’s funding bodies in recent times.
In any case, from a NZ perspective, it is becoming clear that everybody is going OA except us – but the question is no longer if but when. While the NZ government has established NZGOAL and issued its Declaration on Open and Transparent Government, it has so far been silent on research by organisations like Otago. It can only be a matter of time before this changes, given developments around the rest of the world.