Why FIRST is a Trojan Horse

Bill would be a major setback to progress on public access to US federally funded research

PLOS opposes the public access language set out within a bill introduced to the US House of Representatives on Monday, March 10. Section 303 of H.R. 4186, the Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science and Technology (FIRST) Act would undercut the ability of federal agencies to effectively implement the widely supported White House Directive on Public Access to the Results of Federally Funded Research and undermine the successful public access program pioneered by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) – recently expanded through the FY14 Omnibus Appropriations Act to include the Departments Labor, Education and Health and Human Services.  Adoption of Section 303 would be a step backward from existing federal policy in the directive, and put the U.S. at a disadvantage among its global competitors.

PLOS has never previously opposed public access provisions in US legislation but the passage of FIRST as currently written would reduce access to tax-payer funded publications and data, restrict searching, text-mining and crowdsourcing and place US scientists and businesses at a competitive disadvantage.

“PLOS stands firmly alongside those seeking to advance public access to publicly funded knowledge”, said PLOS Chief Executive Officer Elizabeth Marincola. “This legislation would be a substantial step backwards compared to the existing U.S. policy as set out by the White House and in the recent Omnibus Bill.”

As the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) outlines, Section 303 would:

  • Slow the pace of scientific discovery by restricting public access to articles reporting on federally funded research for up to three years after initial publication.  This stands in stark contrast to the policies in use around the world, which call for maximum embargo periods of no more than six to 12 months.
  • Fail to support provisions that allow for shorter embargo periods to publicly funded research results.  This provision ignores the potential harm to stakeholders that can accrue through unnecessarily long delays.
  • Fail to ensure that federal agencies have full text copies of their funded research articles to archive and provide to the public for full use, and for long-term archiving.  By condoning a link to an article on a publisher’s website as an acceptable compliance mechanism, this provision puts the long term accessibility and utility of federally funded research articles at serious risk.
  • Stifle researchers’ ability to share their own research and to access the works of others, slowing progress towards scientific discoveries, medical breakthroughs, treatments and cures.
  • Make it harder for U.S. companies – especially small businesses and start-ups – to access cutting-edge research, thereby slowing their ability to innovate, create new products and services and generate new jobs.
  • Waste further time and taxpayer dollars by calling for a needless, additional 18-month delay while agencies “develop plans for” policies.  This is a duplication of federal agency work that was required by the White House Directive and has, in large part, already been completed.
  • Impose unnecessary costs on federal agency public access programs by conflating access and preservation policies as applied to articles and data.  The legislation does not make clear enough what data must be made accessible, nor adequately articulate the location of where such data would reside, or its terms of use.

The FIRST Act was introduced in the House of Representatives by Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-IN). It is expected to be referred to the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.

Take Action Before Thursday, March 13:

Encourage federal agencies to implement the White House Directive and ensure the passage of the bipartisan, bicameral Fair Access to Science and Technology Research (FASTR) Act.

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2 Responses to Why FIRST is a Trojan Horse

  1. Pingback: Roundup: Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science and Technology (FIRST) Act Introduced in U.S. Congress | LJ INFOdocket

  2. Pingback: Social Science Advocates Uniting to Oppose FIRST

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