Should Science be Open to the Public? Obama Wants to Know

This man loves science

So, I’m on a mailing list for the journal “Science”, and I got an email today about a new policy idea about open access science.  If you’ve been keeping up with my blog, you know that I’m a huge promoter of such science, and tend to limit my reviews of articles to ones that most readers would have easy access to.  But, this isn’t easy, since if the article didn’t appear on Biomed central, or pubmed, then getting your hands on it may be nearly impossible unless you have access to a University library like I do.

That is a major problem.  The email said:

The Obama Administration is seeking public input on policies concerning access to publicly-funded research results, such as those that appear in academic and scholarly journal articles. Currently, the National Institutes of Health require that research funded by its grants be made available to the public online at no charge within 12 months of publication. The Administration is seeking views as to whether this policy should be extended to other science agencies and, if so, how it should be implemented.

And then broke it down into two areas:

Features and Technology (Dec. 21 to Dec 31): In what format should the data be submitted in order to make it easy to search and retrieve information, and to make it easy for others to link to it? Are there existing digital standards for archiving and interoperability to maximize public benefit? How are these anticipated to change?

Management (Jan. 1 to Jan. 7): What are the best mechanisms to ensure compliance? What would be the best metrics of success? What are the best examples of usability in the private sector (both domestic and international)? Should those who access papers be given the opportunity to comment or provide feedback?

Each of these topics will form the basis of a blog posting that will appear at www.whitehouse.gov/open and will be open for comment on the OSTP blog at blog.ostp.gov.

If research is funded by the government, then by definition, it is funded by you (and me).  Therefore we have the right to access it right away after it is published … since we are part owners of it!  Unfortunately, it doesn’t currently work that way, which to my mind is a violation not only of our sovereign rights, but of the “code” of science.  Progress is never made when information is sequestered.

I think a simple change that would be great is simply allow the authors of the papers themselves be allowed to post the articles on their own websites or blogs.  Then, in addition to the traditional channels through which scientists can provide them with feedback, the public at large would have the ability to do so themselves.

Features and Technology (Dec. 21 to Dec 31): In what format should the data be submitted in order to make it easy to search and retrieve information, and to make it easy for others to link to it? Are there existing digital standards for archiving and interoperability to maximize public benefit? How are these anticipated to change?

* Management (Jan. 1 to Jan. 7): What are the best mechanisms to ensure compliance? What would be the best metrics of success? What are the best examples of usability in the private sector (both domestic and international)? Should those who access papers be given the opportunity to comment or provide feedback?

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