Representatives Urge White House to Support Public Access to Federally Funded Research

Jun 28, 2012


This morning, Congressman Mike Doyle (D-PA) and 12 other Members of Congress sent a letter to the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) at the White House in support of policies promoting greater public access to the results of federally funded research.

In the letter, Members encouraged the OSTP to implement rules that require federal agencies to permit free access to published works funded by federal dollars.  Such policies would “promote the broadest possible return on taxpayer investment in academic research,” the Members wrote. 

“The Internet has made access to information exponentially easier and faster,” Congressman Doyle said. “So it’s only logical that we help our scientists share their research as widely as possible online, to encourage greater collaboration and innovation in the sciences. I think this is the wave of the future and I urge the OSTP to implement public access policies to support our nation’s leadership in the sciences.  I think keeping taxpayer-funded research behind expensive paywalls runs counter to the goals of encouraging continued U.S. economic competitiveness.”

The Members point out in the letter that public access policies are “well-tested, common sense efforts that have not led to any known reports of job losses or financial cutbacks in the publishing industry.  On the other hand, they have received the utmost praise of innovators and researchers whose access to that data expands the value of federal R&D investment.”

The letter was signed by Reps. Mike Doyle, Kevin Yoder, Wm. Lacy Clay, Henry Waxman, Michael Fitzpatrick, Zoe Lofgren, Bobby Rush, Jared Polis, Ron Paul, Michael Capuano, Russ Carnahan, Tim Holden, and Donald Manzullo.

The text of the letter follows below.

Click here to see the actual letter.


June 28, 2012


John P. Holdren


Office of Science and Technology Policy

Executive Office of the President

725 17th Street Room 5228

Washington, DC 20502


Dear Dr. Holdren:

We have followed with great interest the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy’s ongoing examination of policies to promote public access to federally funded research.  We believe that greater transparency of taxpayer funded research is critical to ensuring continued U.S. leadership in scientific innovation and academic research.  We also believe that public access policies would allow students nationwide to access a broader array of academic works through university libraries that have suffered from reduced funding.  Accordingly, we urge the OSTP to act quickly to make federally funded research more accessible to academics, university students, and the American taxpayer.

We write today to emphasize the demonstrated, immediate need for public access policies at U.S. federal agencies.  A growing number of experts indicate that the U.S. is rapidly falling behind in global leadership in the sciences.  Reports demonstrate that from 1996 to 2008, the United States dropped 20 percent relative to other nations in its share of scientific journal publications.  While we believe a continued commitment to research and development is an important component of investment in U.S. economic competitiveness, the added value of making research publicly available is that it can exponentially increase collaboration and intelligent knowledge sourcing among researchers.  Public access policies can help to boost the value of academic works by exposing them to larger audiences and increasing the potential for citations.

Public access policies for government-funded research have been functioning successfully for several years outside of the U.S., at the Research Councils United Kingdom, the Higher Education Funding Council for England, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, as well as domestically at the National Institutes of Health.  Public access policies for faculty research have also been in place for years at dozens of renowned universities in the United States, including Harvard University, Stanford University, University of Kansas, Carnegie Mellon University, Duke University, and many others.  Such policies are not based in avant-garde ideas.  They are well-tested, common sense efforts that have not led to any known reports of job losses or financial cutbacks in the publishing industry.  On the other hand, they have received the utmost praise of innovators and researchers whose access to that data expands the value of federal R&D investment.

Further, we believe simply that taxpayers who fund research should be able to have access to research results.  While we value the editorial contributions of the publishing industry in producing a final research product, we do not support keeping publicly funded research behind expensive paywalls that force the public to pay twice for access to research. 

Support for public access policies is widespread and growing.  As you are likely aware, last month, a petition in support of public access policies on the White House’s We The People website received, over the course of less than two weeks, more than 25,000 signatures – enough to prompt White House consideration.  In addition, public access is supported by over 130 university and college presidents and provosts, as well as libraries, countless student organizations, renowned scientists including 52 Nobel laureates, as well as a growing number of forward-looking university, commercial, and nonprofit publishers.  Importantly, a recent legislative effort aimed to limit public access policies and roll back the National Institutes of Health’s already established PubMed Central repository met with overwhelming public opposition and was ultimately withdrawn.

Given the critical nature of public access to encourage continued U.S. leadership in the sciences, we urge the OSTP to direct federal agencies to implement public access policies and promote the broadest possible return on taxpayer investment in academic research. 

Thank you for your attention to this matter.