Boston College Libraries Faculty Newsletter


FALL 2009

Federal Research Public Access Act

Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) and Senator Joe Lieberman, (I-CT) have reintroduced into Congress the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA) that they first introduced in 2006. Though the earlier version didn't go very far, it received much publicity and promoted widely the principle of open public access to taxpayer supported research. FRPAA's principal aim is straightforward, namely to require that final manuscripts of original research papers that have been accepted for publication in peer-reviewed journals and that result from research supported, in whole or in part, from funding by the Federal Government be made freely available online as soon as practicable, but not later than 6 months after publication. The federal research agencies affected by this bill are those with extramural research expenditures of over $100,000,000. These include the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Defense, the Department of Education, the Department of Energy, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Transportation, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the National Science Foundation. FRPAA, if passed, would follow the March 2009 act requiring that electronic versions of journal articles resulting from research funded by the National Institutes of Health be deposited into the National Library of Medicine's online repository, PubMed Central (PMC) within 12 months after publication in a journal.


Many both within and without academia believe that published research that is funded by the Federal Government, i.e. taxpayers, should be widely and freely available. However, most research results are published in scholarly journals that are often extremely expensive and that are rarely accessible in other than university libraries. As most Americans do not have access to the resources of university libraries, they are not able to consult the results and discoveries of federally funded research. As Senator Lieberman was reported in the Congressional Record, June 26, 2009: "While this research is undoubtedly necessary and is beneficial to America, it remains the case that not all Americans are capable of experiencing these benefits firsthand. Usually the results of the researchers are published in academic journals. Despite the fact that the research was paid for by Americans' tax dollars, most citizens are unable to attain timely access to the wealth of information that the research provides."


If FRPAA passes – and some commentators are optimistic that the Obama administration will be more favorable to this second version than the previous administration was to the first – it will be a major advance for the cause of open access. It is certainly true that some publishers are unhappy with the provisions of the FRPAA bill. Still, the embargo for up to six months provides for publishers to make money through normal channels of publishing. Also, this embargo allowing for research to be initially published in a journal before open access dissemination through a digital repository facilitates the continued practice of the traditional peer review process. Thus, FRPAA appears to be a fair balance of potentially competing interests.

Brendan Rapple

Brendan Rapple
Collection Development Librarian

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