The results of federally funded research at the University and other institutions across the country will now be available for public viewing.
A policy memorandum issued by the White House Friday requires that all results from research that is partially or fully funded by the government must be available to the public within a year of publication if the research institute has a research budget of $100 million or more.
This policy could have major implications for University research, because 62 percent of funding is from the federal government.
John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, wrote in the memorandum that the policy will spur scientific entrepreneurship and innovation.
“For example, open weather data underpins the forecasting industry and provides great public benefits, and making genome sequences publicly available has spawned many biotechnology innovations,” Holdren wrote.
A petition on We the People — a website created by the Obama administration where citizens can launch petitions that will be considered if they reach a minimum number of signatures — launched in May 2012 insisting that taxpayer-funded research be publicly accessible. The petition, which specified that the research should be available in digital format, became the catalyst behind the change. Holdren noted that it also reflects input from the scientific and publishing community.
University researchers will not have to make a major transition to accommodate the new policy, as journal publishers will shoulder the majority of “hiccups” in transitioning to the new system, Dean of Libraries Paul Courant said.
“The worst thing in the world is when there’s a new requirement and nobody knows how to fulfill it,” Courant said. “(The new requirement) quite quickly becomes a routine. They grumble about it for a little while, then they figure out how to do it, and life goes on.”
Publishers will have to determine what format to transfer the works into, who will be in charge of publicizing the research and other administrative questions. Courant expects costs would be minimal.
In 2008, the National Institute of Health mandated that all research it funds be accessed publicly on PubMed Central, its digital archive. Jane Blumenthal, director of the Taubman Health Sciences Library, said researchers became comfortable with the process of depositing their papers into PubMed within a year.
She said the NIH Public Access Policy had no major issues; it simply had to be adopted by researchers. She also predicts the second policy change in publicizing will be more efficiently implemented.
“It’s going to be easier and go smoother because they will learn from the experiences NIH had,” Blumenthal said. “They see how NIH did it and they’re not starting from scratch.”
Courant said this policy is a step forward for open education.
“Many people who are not attached to universities have really no access at all to the quite remarkable work done here and hundreds of other places,” Courant said. “Now they will.”
“I wouldn’t describe it as a burden,” Blumenthal said. “It’s not as onerous as preparing a journal and submitting it for publication. This is just one extra step on the end of that.”
Stephen Forrest, the University’s vice president for research, said requiring that research be released to the public was a natural move.
“(The public) gets the information sooner, free of charge and, after all, they have paid for it.”