Open Access to Research

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Last Update: November 7, 2006

The increased number of publishing house mergers in the last twenty years has been accompanied by a significant rise in the cost of scientific, technical, and medical (STM) and legal serial publications. Increased subscription costs have become a crushing budgetary burden for many libraries and institutions. The most troublesome consequence to these economic realities is that more and more important scientific and technical information is becoming less available for students and researchers as libraries often must forego expensive subscriptions.

We are now seeing a backlash to that trend that may signal a revolutionary shift in the way that scientific information will be made available in the future: the introduction of new legislation, the recent opening of the Public Library of Science and the formation of the Information Access Alliance.

September 27, 2006

On September 26, legislation to provide for a sweeping overhaul of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) - the first of its kind in 13 years - included key report language underscoring Congressional oversight to actively monitor participation rates and overall effectiveness of the NIH's Public Access Policy.  The NIH Reauthorization Bill, authored by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton, passed the House of Representatives on Tuesday, September 26. 

Alliance for Taxpayer Access (ATA), of which ALA is a member, reports that the importance of the public access policy was brought into focus as well at last week's markup of the bill, when Congressman Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania echoed concerns about the meager participation rate - less than five percent - under NIH’s current voluntary policy.  Committee Chairman Joe Barton responded during markup, telling Doyle he shares many of his concerns regarding the function of the public access policy and pledging to work with the Congressman to implement reform measures.

More information and background about open access issues is available on these copyright pages.

June 30, 2006

Federal Research Public Access Act, S. 2695

On May 2, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) introduced the “Federal Research Public Access Act of 2006.”  The bill, S. 2695, requires federal agencies that fund over $100 million in annual external research to make electronic manuscripts of peer-reviewed journal articles stemming from their research publicly available via the Internet within six months of publication.  The following agencies have extramural budgets in excess of $100 million and under this legislation would be required to make their research publicly accessible: Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, Department of Education, Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Transportation, Environmental Protection Agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the National Science Foundation.


At its Annual Conference in June 2006, the American Library Association Council passed a Resolution in support of FRPAA.  As the resolution notes, the federal government invests $55 billion annually in scientific research, with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) portion accounting for one-third of that, resulting in over 65,000 journal articles published annually.


For details of the bill, go to, the web site for the Alliance for Taxpayer Access, a coalition to which ALA belongs and which supports reforms that will make publicly funded research accessible to the public.

December 30, 2005

Library Groups Applaud CURES Bill as Speeding Access to Vital Biomedical Research

ALA and its partners in a coalition of national library associations, representing more than 80,000 information specialists, praised the recent introduction of legislation to establish the American Center for Cures within the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  The bill includes a provision that would help to make taxpayer-funded biomedical research available to all potential users – an important goal for the library groups. 

Introduced on December 14th by Senators Joe Lieberman (D-CT) and Thad Cochran (R-MS), the bipartisan "American Center for Cures Act of 2005,” S. 2104, would expedite development of new therapies and cures for life-threatening diseases.  Among the requirements of the bill is the establishment of free public access to articles stemming from research funded by agencies of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), including NIH, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. "Public Access Requirement for Research" is Section 499H-1 of the American Center for Cures bill introduced in the Senate.

Under the proposed legislation, articles published in a peer-reviewed journal would have to be made publicly available within six months via NIH's popular PubMed Central online digital archive. The library groups noted that although some final electronic manuscripts are made available now on PubMed, many are not—and delays in posting research on PubMed sometimes stall public access to important articles for up to a year. 

The coalition is made up of the American Association of Law Libraries, the American Library Association, the Association of Research Libraries, the Medical Library Association, and the Special Libraries Association. These five associations collectively represent over 139,000 libraries in the United States employing 350,000 librarians and library workers.  The mission of libraries is to foster global access to information for creative, research, and educational uses.

*To find the text of a bill, enter the number in the search window under "Legislation in Current Congress " 


May 31, 2006


European Commission Study on Scholarly Publication


In March 2006 the European Commission issued an important study on the scientific publication system in Europe.   The EC’s recommendations included:

  • Guaranteed public access to publicly-funded research, at the time of publication and also long-term
  • A “level-playing field” so that different business models in publishing can compete fairly in the market
  • Developing pricing strategies that promote competition in the journal market
  • Scrutinizing major mergers that may take place in this sector in the future

Responding to the EC’s invitation to provide feedback on the study and input for a conference on scientific publication to be held in autumn 2006, ALA joined with other library groups to give two sets of comments.  As a member of the Information Access Alliance, we addressed the recommendations on competition and antitrust issues, which align closely with the IAA’s views on addressing the market dysfunctions of the scholarly communication system.  With seven other groups, including ACRL, we separately commented on the three recommendations relating to access to scientific information, which we support. 



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