Revised FIRST Bill Would Give Science Agencies 1 Year to Make Papers Free
Responding to concerns from advocates for public access to government-funded research, the House of Representatives science committee has agreed to shorten the deadline within a draft bill requiring federal agencies to provide free access to scientific papers that they supported.The amendment was one of just a few passed yesterday evening as the House science committee deliberated over the Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science, and Technology (FIRST) Act, a controversial bill that would reauthorize the National Science Foundation (NSF) and several other science agencies. Section 303 of FIRST required that NSF and other science agencies make papers accepted by a peer-reviewed journal freely available within 24 months with the possibility of extending that to 3 years. The lengthy delay drew complaints from some advocates of public access, who noted it was longer than the 12-month embargo embraced by White House officials and many U.S. scientific societies and publishers. 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It could be extended to 18 months if stakeholders can show that “the public interest will be substantially and uniquely harmed” by the 1-year embargo. The changes put the FIRST bill in line with a White House directive issued in February 2013 that requires all science agencies to develop plans for making papers freely available, generally within 1 year. The Sensenbrenner-Lofgren amendment also says that agencies must report to Congress on their plans within 90 days and implement a policy within 1 year.Open-access advocates welcomed the changes. “The new language fixes a major problem,” the 24-month embargo, said Heather Joseph, executive director of the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition in Washington, D.C., in a statement today. Other countries with public-access policies have embargoes of 12 months or less, Joseph notes.