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US House Appropriations Committee's Bill stirs concerns over research accessibility -

The US House Appropriations Committee has unveiled its proposed 2024 Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, outlining a substantial budget of $58 billion. While the bill purports to streamline agencies and programs, it has raised alarm bells among the scientific community due to its potential impact on public access to federally funded research.

The draft language of the bill has prompted a collective response from Fully OA, a consortium comprising eight prominent science open access publishers. In a concerted effort, they have penned a letter to the House Appropriations subcommittee, highlighting the potential repercussions of the bill's provisions. At the heart of the issue is the proposal to limit the immediate availability of federally funded research to the American public upon publication.

If enacted, this measure could curtail the public's ability to freely access research findings resulting from the more than $90 billion invested annually in scientific research through taxpayer funds. The consequences would not only impede the dissemination of knowledge but also create a system where those who contribute to research funding would be unable to fully reap its benefits.

The publishers' objection comes in response to Section 552 of the bill, which seeks to prevent the implementation of the Office of Science and Technology Policy’s (OSTP) August 2022 directive. This directive advocated for the prompt and unrestricted release of federally funded research outcomes.

In their collective response, the Fully OA group expresses deep concern over the potential repercussions of the bill. They underline the fact that limiting access to research funded by taxpayers is counterproductive both from a scientific and democratic standpoint. The group argues that withholding access undermines the efficiency of scientific progress and equitable governmental policy.

The Fully OA consortium passionately supports the OSTP guidelines as a crucial step forward in advancing open scientific communication. They assert that the proposed appropriations bill would hinder the realization of these goals, resulting in a situation where most research remains locked behind subscription paywalls.

The consortium points out the growing global demand for open science, highlighting the efforts of various publishers and institutions that have been transitioning towards open policies. The proposed bill's retention of a 12-month embargo period stands in contrast to this global trend and poses a potential setback to the broader accessibility of scientific literature.

Several key examples were cited in the response to demonstrate the momentum of Open Science: Subscription Publishers Transition: Leading subscription publishers have been shifting towards open policies in line with initiatives like Plan S and cOAlition S; Supportive Funders: Funding organizations such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute have embraced more liberal embargoes; and Governmental Initiatives: Initiatives like the NASA Transform to Open Science (TOPS) prioritize open access to federally funded research.

The response from the Fully OA consortium underscores the vital role that open access plays in advancing scientific research and underscores the potential setbacks posed by the proposed appropriations bill. They express willingness to collaborate with the Committee to develop alternative language that aligns with the principles of Open Science and preserves scientific freedom.

Click here to read the original press release.


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