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White House Tells Agencies To Increase Access to Fed-Funded Research 121

Z80xxc! writes "The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy announced a "policy memorandum" today requiring any federal agency with over $100 million in R&D expenditures each year to develop plans for making all research funded by that agency freely available to the public within one year of publication in any peer-reviewed scholarly journal. The full memorandum is available on the White House website. It appears that this policy would not only apply to federal agencies conducting research, but also to any university, private corporation, or other entity conducting research that arises from federal funding. For those in academia and the public at large, this is a huge step towards free open access to publicly funded research." Edward Tufte calls the move timid and unimaginative, linking to a Verge article that explains that it's not quite as sweeping as the summary above sounds.
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White House Tells Agencies To Increase Access to Fed-Funded Research

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  • by theodp ( 442580 ) on Saturday February 23, 2013 @11:36AM (#42989269)

    Or will the DOJ indict President Obama, too?

    • He's catering to the publishers because he has to. It's politics, he's making positive steps in some areas but doesn't want to step on publisher's toes so they won't come after him with pitchforks and foil any other plans he has.

      He has a lot on his plate, and you can't just go pushing everyone around in politics and expect to get everything you want.

    • by Jetra ( 2622687 )
      Because, clearly, they don't want their little Black Projects becoming known.
      • by anagama ( 611277 )

        I don't really understand this comment. I also don't understand the "national security" language in the order. I would find it hard to believe that a government as ridiculously secretive as ours has become, would rely on a paywall like lexis/nexis as a way of keeping information secret. What's a few hundred bucks between spies for a subscription to access to all the latest secrets about black projects? Obviously nothing -- that research won't be showing up anywhere.

        I would like to know exactly why these

      • WRONG. These are research projects at universities and innoquious private firms and think tanks that range from how to grow sustainable fish populations to perpetual motion machines and other poppycock. Perfectly innocent and in some cases actually beneficial to people, as well as the idiotic. Its about damn time they started paying lip service to keeping publicly funded research in the public. The stuff you're talking about will never get public access anyway, nor was it meant to.
    • Reading the Government is a bit like reading smoke signals in the rain but I am guessing that this snippet in section 3 of the memorandum is pushback:

      "Agency plans must also describe, to the extent feasible, procedures the agency will take to help prevent the unauthorized mass redistribution of scholarly publications."

      That suggests to me that they do not want to vindicate Aaron Swartz.

  • by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Saturday February 23, 2013 @11:52AM (#42989371)
    Now we just need to cut the journal publishers out of the system entirely, since they provide no useful or necessary service. Academic publishers are parasites that exploit the volunteer labor of scientists; we no longer require their services to spread articles around the world. We have the Internet, let's just use it and stop clinging to obsolete ideas like copyright.
    • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <delirium-slashdot.hackish@org> on Saturday February 23, 2013 @12:14PM (#42989521)

      It's started happening in some areas. It's easiest in fields (like mine) where it's already standard for researchers to provide publication-ready final PDFs, usually typeset with LaTeX using a template provided by the journal. In that case, the publisher is not adding much value: they are just shuffling PDFs around, and as academics we are already quite capable of shuffling around our own PDFs.

      JMLR [], which has displaced Machine Learning to be the top machine-learning journal within only a few years after the latter's editorial board resigned [] to form it, is one of the success stories.

      • Many of the journals we have now started as academic controlled publications like JMLR. It's fine to start over with new publications, but it's naive to think that doing so will solve the fundamental problems of access to research information.

        JMLR, for example, is still under the control of a private publisher, which is affiliated with a private university. There's no real incentive for them to keep the information freely available any longer than is fashionable. In the several hundred year history of a

    • Sorry man, but there's already loads of crap on the internet. The peer review system is very important in establishing any sort of scientific credibility.
      • The peer review system is not dependent on academic publishers. Reviewers and editors are volunteers under the current system, and would continue to do their voluntary work without the publishing industry.
        • by icebike ( 68054 )

          The peer review system is not dependent on academic publishers. Reviewers and editors are volunteers under the current system, and would continue to do their voluntary work without the publishing industry.

          How does that work in practice?

          Lets say Joe Biologist has a paper he wants to publish, how does he get it reviewed by peers without the appearance of hand-picking his own reviewers? I always assumed the publishers solicited these reviews. Is there another mechanism?

          Disclaimer: Not a scientist, so I have no knowledge of how this happens, but I've seen a lot of total quack "science" published as if it were real on the web.

          • by jpate ( 1356395 )

            Academic journals typically have an editor or group of editors who work for little or no pay. These editors decide whether a submission should proceed to peer review, select the reviewers, and oversee the communication between the reviewers and the submitting authors. Academics do this work for free because it is considered to be part of the vocation [] of creating and expanding knowledge. Publishers were necessary in the past because they handled the logistics of typesetting and printing and distributing the

            • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

              It's still a journal, with a board (as you pointed out, JMLR is successful because it inherited an experienced editorial board), editors, a database of reviewers, etc.

              Journals DO useful things. There probably isn't any point in having large aggregate publishers like Elsevier anymore, but there certainly is still a reason to have journals with staff, volunteer or otherwise.

              Some Slashdotters seem to think that academic publishing is just a matter of sticking some PDFs up on a web page. It's not. Publishers

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Umm, try volunteering for some of the editing work done on such publications (assuming you can, many of them used paid editors, even though the reviewers are volunteers). They certainly do provide a meaningful, and very difficult to perform service. I know from experience from just trying to manage a small conference proceedings that was peer-reviewed that was all managed by volunteers. Thankfully, it was not a periodic publication, as the time it took was a lot more than I expected, and not always easy

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Who modded this up? Was it because it was denouncing copyright? Otherwise the comment seems to be a load of crap modded up by people who either don't actually deal with publishers or who only go through the motions of publishing papers without thinking about what they actually do. I do think there is a lot of problems with copyright and paywalls, and that journal publishers siphon too much money out of research projects, but saying they do so while not providing any service isn't going to help you find a

  • What a joke. Any research receiving tax dollars should have any and all research associated with it available to the public. Don't want to make your research public, then don't take tax money.
    • by Trepidity ( 597 )

      Apply it to private-sector companies who receive funding, and their patents as well, imo.

    • Normally I'd agree with that sentiment, but there's a point where the publishing requirement becomes such a burden that it gets in the way of the research, or prevents it altogether. What qualifies as research? You opened a spreadsheet today and had it calculate the average of a series of numbers? Sorry, now you have to write a report about why you did that research, your results, and what they mean. And then someone has to review it. And you have to submit a form certifying that you did your mandated repor
  • by jasnw ( 1913892 ) on Saturday February 23, 2013 @12:09PM (#42989483)

    The second article notes that agencies can withhold papers that for protection of economic or national security. While this limitation might be reasonable if the order covers all Government-sponsored research, it only covers that research which has been published. If by "published" the order means "published in a public-domain journal" and the aim is to simply bring Government-sponsored research out from behind journal paywalls, then the research had already been screened by the funding agency to make sure nothing that needed such protection was released. So, any "bad guys" would already have access to the information simply by having a subscription to the journals in question. Thus, this is, or should be, a non-issue. If "published" includes reports submitted to the Government as part of contract requirements (status and final reports), that could be more problematic as these are not all generally releaseable. However, I think what's being addressed here is the issue of bringing research out from behind paywalls, something that should not have any problems meeting "protection of security" issues and has been a long time coming.

    • National Security =/ Paywall. More dumb loopholes.
    • If the research is behind a paywall, the Chinese are likely the only ones who have access to it anyway (and not because they're paying for it), which gives them a first-mover advantage over everyone else. Getting research out from behind a paywall simply levels the playing field.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        If the research is behind a paywall, the Chinese are likely the only ones who have access to it anyway (and not because they're paying for it), which gives them a first-mover advantage over everyone else. Getting research out from behind a paywall simply levels the playing field.

        No. You can go to any decent University. Go into one of a dozen libraries and access all those articles for free. Both in print and on line. You don't have to be a student or anything. You just have to care enough to bother.

  • Like, in 5 years, finish your plan which calls for a 20 year rollout of the information.

    This doesn't DO anything.

  • by Daniel Dvorkin ( 106857 ) on Saturday February 23, 2013 @12:10PM (#42989505) Homepage Journal

    It's not perfect, but it's a big step forward. The first year of a paper's "life" is important, to be sure, but it doesn't mean the time after that is unimportant--I just submitted a paper with citations going back to 1970! So far the NIH open access policy has worked out pretty well. And the simple fact is that without some embargo period, the journal lobby would have gone insane ... and unfortunately, they've got enough of a voice in Congress to ensure that any requirement for instant open access would be shot down hard. This move, OTOH, will create some grumbling, but any attempt to reverse it by law will meet the same political fate that previous attempts to reverse the NIH policy have done, probably dying in committee without ever even making it to a floor vote. Which is, you know, a good thing. This may be a mediocre result for science, but Obama's a politician, not a scientist, and it's very good politics indeed. To quote another cliche, "half a loaf is better than none."

    If there's anything I'm worried about, it's the usual list of "security" exemptions. There's some research which, for security reasons, never gets published in any journals, of course. (I've heard rumors that NSA has its own list of "journals" that are only ever seen by NSA mathematicians--they run exactly like journals in the outside world, just with a very limited audience. I have no idea if this is true, but it's believable given the sheer amount of brainpower NSA employs.) That's understandable, if annoying. But if an article is published in a journal that's available to the world as a whole, then claiming that keeping it paywalled contributes to "national, homeland, and economic security" in any way is absurd.

  • Why within a year and not immediately? (just don't dare give me the "national security" BS! If it would be of "classified nature", then it wouldn't be published in a journal that provides the paper for anyone willing to pay 30 bucks or so).
    • To give the journal publishers time to make money. That's pretty much all there is to it. Like I said in my previous post on this story, it's not a perfect solution by any means, but given the strength of the journal lobby it's the best we're going to get.

    • The government evaluates research projects by the number of publications weighted by the "impact" of the journal. Many researchers (myself included) would be very happy to only publish in open journals, but if we did, our projects would appear less successful so our funding would suffer. The delay is probably an agreement with the major journals to give them exclusive rights. fro a while.

      I don't like it, but it isn't easy to come up with a different way for funding agencies to evaluate R&D.

  • Exactly what the President promised us in his memorandum titled "Transparency and Open Government ". []

    • Intertestingly this admin has been the murkiest and most expensive yet. War is peace, I guess.
      • Yes well, the most interesting paragraph is the last one:

        This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by a party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

        Combined with the use of "should" instead of "Shall" in all the directions to agencies means the directive is effective null.

  • Nah, I'm sure it will work this time.

  • Researchers should post their data in sqlite files as well as flat text files. XML should be banned.
    • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

      Awesome. Come into the lab and we'll do an MRI on you, gather some medical history, and publish it all. As a text file!

  • They'll just classify everything top secret and even less information will be released.
  • The Constitution is out the door, the American taxpayer is under assault from the CONgressMEN, the budget will never balance except by raising taxes, there will be no accountability from our "elected" officials, corporate immunity with impunity dictating government policy to the detriment of the governed. All of it reigns supreme, but hey, how about them Ravens?
  • Good now there going to change an outrageous amount for a copy of said Data. I files a police report and they want to charge me 15 bucks for a copy i didn't know paper cost so much lol
  • spend your tax dollars developing it, and if its something useful its sold to suck the most profit out of your wallet by the now private company who developed it.

    I like paying for stuff twice

  • This needs to be looked at carefully for any security issues.
  • of saying "no brainer".

    Calling something the obvious thing to do and practically risk-free hardly counts as criticism in my book.

  • I voted for Obama twice and would probably do so again, but "timid and unimaginative" seems to be a defining feature of his presidency.
  • While, as a researcher myself, I can understand some of the statements these free-every-result advocates make, even though some of them seem very extreme even to me, I don't think this issue is that easy as they might suggest. A lot of research gets some sort of federal funding, and while I'd agree that published papers during these research works should be made freely available, I wouldn't agree with making all research results freely accessible. A lot of spinoff companies would die, a lot of companies sta

The last thing one knows in constructing a work is what to put first. -- Blaise Pascal