With passage of the 2014 Omnibus Appropriations Act, Congress has advanced a 2013 Presidential directive requiring public access to taxpayer funded research. The bill mandates that federal agencies with annual research budgets of $100 million or more under the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Departments offer online public access to articles resulting from federally funded research no later than 12 months after publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

Specifically, the Omnibus bill makes public access to taxpayer-funded research a legal requirement for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), and Education, plus other smaller agencies. In addition, public access advocates note, “the bill directs other federal agencies to keep moving on the Directive policies,” including the Departments of Agriculture, the Interior, Commerce, and the National Science Foundation.

Mandating public access via an omnibus bill is not unprecedented: it is how the nation’s first public access access policy, for the NIH, was implemented in 2008.

While advocates, including the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), applauded the language in the omnibus bill, they say they will continue to push for more access.

“SPARC strongly supports the language in the Omnibus bill, which affirms the strong precedent set by the landmark NIH Public Access Policy, and more recently by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Directive on Public Access,” reads a recent release. “At the same time, SPARC is pressing for additional provisions to strengthen the language, many of which are contained in the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research (FASTR) Act.”

Among the “additional provisions,” SPARC officials want to see articles made available in six months, rather than a year, and perhaps most importantly, it is pushing for Congress to mandate that federally-funded research be made available through a
“central repository” similar to the National Institutes for Health’s PubMed Central, and that articles be submitted under terms that ensure researchers can data-mine across the entire research corpus.

“SPARC is working toward codifying the principles in FASTR and is working with the Administration to use PubMed Central as the implementation model for the President’s directive,” said SPARC executive director Heather Joseph. “Only with a central repository and the ability to fully mine and reuse data will we have the access we need to really spur innovation and job creation in broad sections of the economy.”

That puts public access advocates potentially at odds with publishers, who support the president’s directive, but oppose a central repository as well as some provisions in FASTR.

The publishers are advancing their own protocol for public access, dubbed CHORUS (The Clearinghouse for the Open Research of the United States), billed as a “not-for-profit public-private partnership to provide public access to the peer-reviewed publications that report on federally funded research.”

CHORUS, conceived by publishers “as a public access solution for funding agencies,” is still in development.

Last week, the group, which now includes 93 “signatories,” announced the appointment of Howard Ratner as executive director of the venture, CHOR Inc. Susan King, senior v-p of the American Chemical Society’s Journals Publishing Group and Chair of the CHOR, Inc. board said Ratner’s appointment as its “inaugural executive director” reflected “confidence in Howard’s ability to launch CHORUS as a sustainable solution to the White House’s calls for increased public access to research.”

Ratner, president-elect of the Society for Scholarly Publishing, has previously served as Chief Technology Officer, and executive v-p for Nature Publishing Group, and director, Electronic Publishing and Production for Springer.