Tuesday, December 15, 2009

US government looks to expand scientific open access policy; Ars Technica, 12/14/09

John Timmer, Ars Technica; US government looks to expand scientific open access policy:

The US government's Office of Science and Technology Policy is hosting a forum for debating an expansion of an open access policy, used by the National Institute of Health, that guarantees all publications derived from the agency's funding are available to the public within one year.

"Last Thursday, the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy launched a public forum to allow the public to provide feedback into a potential expansion of the US government's open access policy for scientific research. Right now, the National Institutes of Health is the only agency that requires recipients of its funding to make any scientific papers available to the public within a year of the publication date. For the next month, the OSTP will be soliciting feedback on whether and how the policy should be extended to other federal agencies...

One problem with the documents at the website is that they don't make a clear distinction between the publications that are based on research funded by federal agencies and the data behind the research itself. A more informative description of the different materials can be found in the Federal Register, which published the official request for input...

So, for the moment at least, the OSTP is focusing strictly on publications, and not on providing access to the raw data produced during the course of these studies (although that may be subject to separate disclosure policies, depending on the agency and material). It's a rather significant distinction to make, given the recent controversy over the availability of climate data that was used to produce several peer-reviewed studies.

In any case, the actual format of the material may ultimately be just as important as which agencies are included. The ability to ingest data from these publications and make it accessible to text mining and meta-analysis that crosses disciplines has the potential to open new avenues for research and provide a higher scientific return on the public's investment."


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