Boston College Libraries Faculty Newsletter


FALL 2006

Federal Research Public Access Act of 2006

In May, 2006 Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) introduced the bipartisan FRPAA (Federal Research Public Access Act). This Act would require that US Government agencies with annual extramural research expenditures of over $100 million to make manuscripts of journal articles stemming from research funded by that agency publicly available via the Internet. The manuscripts would be maintained in a stable digital repository, either the agency’s own or another that facilitates free public access, interoperability, and long-term preservation. The agency would be obliged to provide free online public access to these final peer-reviewed manuscripts or published versions not later than 6 months after publication in peer-reviewed journals.


In a floor speech of the US Senate on 2 May, 2006 Senator Cornyn said: “Our bill simply says to all researchers who seek government funding that we want the results of your work to be seen by the largest possible audience. It will ensure that US taxpayers do not have to pay twice for the same research – once to conduct it, and a second time to read it.” Not surprisingly FRPAA has received strong support from academia. Numerous university and college presidents, provosts and other senior administrators have registered their support. For example, in late July twenty-five university provosts (some very major universities included) released An Open Letter to the Higher Education Community in support of FRPAA. The authors, observing that about 50% of university research funding originates with the federal government, state categorically that “FRPAA is good for education and good for research. It is good for the American public, and it promotes broad, democratic access to knowledge.” On 6 September, 2006 the presidents of fifty-six liberal arts colleges also issued a letter supporting FRPAA. In praising FRPAA the presidents write: “Adoption of the Federal Research Public Access Act will democratize access to research information funded by tax dollars. It will benefit education, research, and the general public. We urge the higher education community, American taxpayers, and members of Congress to support its passage into law.” On 19 September, 2006 six public land-grant universities in New England, also issued a letter in support of FRPAA. The letter is signed by the Chief Academic Officers from the Universities of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts Amherst, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. In this letter to Senator Cornyn they write: “Open access to publicly funded research facilitates the candid discussion needed to accelerate research, share knowledge, improve treatment of diseases, and increase human understanding. Your bill is a crucial step in realizing this goal, and we look forward to working with you to secure the bill’s passage. . .”


Nevertheless, many professional and scholarly publishers are strongly critical of FRPAA as is evident in a 9 May, 2006 press release by the Association of American Publishers. Though publishers raise a variety of objections, it’s likely their primary concern is the potential loss of revenue to publishers if the Bill is passed. Dr. Brian D. Crawford, chairman of the Professional and Scholarly Publishing Division of the Association of American Publishers, and a Senior Vice President of the American Chemical Society, acknowledges that publishers are fearful that the Bill “would result in a significant loss of revenue from subscriptions, licensing, and individual article sales, thereby making it difficult for them to sustain and recoup the investments they make in support of scientific communication.” However, Peter Suber, an influential Open Access supporter and a professor of philosophy at Earlham College, contends in a 10 May commentary on the AAP’s press release that it is likely that FRPAA will not be detrimental to subscriptions. However, he cogently argues that even if FRPAA results in loss of revenue for publishers “the public interest takes precedence. The mission of the publicly-funded research agencies is to advance science and research, not to protect the revenues of private-sector businesses.”

In the Fall 2005 issue of the Library Newsletter I wrote of the NIH Public Access Policy that requested all NIH-funded investigators to deposit their final manuscripts in PubMed Central 12 months after the official date of final publication. Because self-archiving was not mandated the NIH Policy was arguably doomed to failure. Only about 4% of eligible articles were archived. Consequently, the mandating element of FRPAA (within six months and not twelve) promises far greater success in having scholarly articles disseminated freely. Moreover, many more disciplines are now covered by FRPAA and not just those coming under the rubric of the NIH. In addition, the researcher’s own institutional repository may be appropriate for archiving the document once it satisfies the conditions of free public access, interoperability, and long-term preservation. It is not limited to a central archive. More information about FRPAA may be accessed on the ARL SPARC page Federal Research Public Access Act of 2006 (S.2695).

In closing, may I remind Boston College authors that they do not have to wait until there is a government mandate to deposit their published articles in an institutional or disciplinary digital repository. Once such articles do not run counter to copyright restrictions that may be imposed by the journals’ publishers, they may be deposited in Boston College Libraries’ eScholarship@BC. Moreover, articles deposited in eScholarship@BC are by no means limited to those whose research has been funded by the federal government.


For more information please contact Mark Caprio, eScholarship Program Manager.


Brendan RappleBrendan Rapple
Collection Development Librarian

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