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Open access in the United States: land of the free (access to research)

Yellowstone national park, © Quan Yuan/Getty Images
In 2013, a memo from John Holdren, director for the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) at the White House, was sent to all heads of executive departments and agencies:

“The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) hereby directs each Federal agency with over $100 million in annual conduct of research and development expenditures to develop a plan to support increased public access to the results of research funded by the Federal Government. This includes any results published in peer-reviewed scholarly publications that are based on research that directly arises from Federal funds” OSTP memo p.2

Affected agencies were to be responsible for coming up with a plan to open up research outputs as well as data in line with the agenda set out in the memorandum. Plans would be required to have a number of key elements: fostering public/private partnerships, improving public access to data, improving access to research through searching and archiving facilities, etc.

The memo asked agencies to ensure that the public are able to read, download, and analyse peer-reviewed manuscripts and final published versions within a suggested 12 month time frame. The twelve month time frame mirrors that of both Canada and China (blogged about previously). Agencies should also ensure that metadata for research is made publicly available immediately upon first publication with a link to where final versions are available.

The US National Institute of Health has required research outputs to be publicly available after 12 months since 2008. Recently the US Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) took steps to further implement the plans set out in the OSTP memo. The HSS plans are designed to increase public access to the results of publicly funded research across five of its operating divisions. These HSS divisions include: National Institutes of Health (NIH), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), and the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR).

The HSS plans for public access to research involve two main areas:
•    Peer-reviewed outputs must be publicly available. Researchers funded by any of the 5 agencies will be required to deposit their publications in PubMed Central within 12 months of publication.
•    Data must be publicly available. Researchers will be required to produce a data management plan outlining how their data will stored and shared.

“A major focus over the coming year will be the policy development processes necessary to turn these plans into practice.  Several agencies, such as FDA, AHRQ and ASPR, will be developing public access policies for the first time. Other agencies, such as NIH and CDC, will be updating existing policies [...] We look forward to working together with all of the stakeholders to increase the usability of health research funded by HHS, and to creating an information ecosystem that will catalyze improvements in health and healthcare for all Americans.” HSS idea lab blog

Individual action plans can be found here:
•    NIH’s Public Access Plan
•    FDA’s Public Access Plan
•    CDC’s Public Access Plan
•    AHRQ’s Public Access Plan
•    ASPR’s Public Access Plan

Sources:
http://www.hhs.gov/open/public-access/index.html
http://blogs.nature.com/news/2013/02/us-white-house-announces-open-access-policy.html
http://www.hhs.gov/idealab/2015/02/27/hhs-expands-approach-making-research-results-freely-available-public/

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