A Call to Action: Support public access to publicly funded research

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Please respond to the White House request for information by January 12, 2012

A Call to Action Message from Provost Vitter to KU Faculty and Research Staff

Dear Faculty,

KU became the first public institution with a faculty-led open access policy, affirming its commitment to making scholarly work widely available to the public.  KU faculty have an opportunity to shape future national policy on public access to research funded by the public-- the public which also funds KU. 

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) has issued a Request for Information (RFI), asking individuals and organizations to provide recommendations on approaches for broad public access and long-term stewardship of peer-reviewed scholarly publications that result from federally funded scientific research.

RFI overview
The RFI poses eight multi-part questions. Responders are free to address any or all the eight items, as well as provide additional information that they think is relevant to developing policies consistent with increased public access to peer-reviewed scholarly publications resulting from federally funded research.

Submissions should be sent via email to publicaccess@ostp.gov.  Please note: OSTP will publicly post all submissions after the deadline (along with names of submitters and their institutions) so please make sure not to include any confidential or proprietary information in your submission. Attachments may be included.

It is urgent that as many individuals and organizations as possible –at all levels – respond. Quantity and quality of responses to each of the questions will help inform OSTP of the public interest and concerns of this issue.

Additional information can be found at http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/11/07/request-information-public-access-digital-data-and-scientific-publications  and the actual questions and submission instructions here, http://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2011/11/04/2011-28623/request-for-information-public-access-to-peer-reviewed-scholarly-publications-resulting-from

Why should KU faculty/researchers respond?
KU and its faculty have demonstrated their commitment to examining issues of public access to scholarship and experimenting with projects that extend the reach of its scholarship for over a decade. In 2010, KU became the first public institution with a faculty-led open access policy. 

Main points to consider
If you cannot answer all of the questions, please answer the questions that are appropriate and meaningful to you, using personal examples from your academic, teaching and private life.

The main points to consider and elaborate on when responding are the following:

  • Taxpayers (not just the scholars and students at wealthier institutions) are entitled to access the results of the research their tax dollars fund. Taxpayers should be allowed immediately to access and fully reuse the results of publicly funded research which are peer reviewed and distributed in scholarly publications.
  • That free and immediate access creates environments that spur scholarly productivity and commercial innovation.
  • Full access to scholarship allows the purpose of the work to be realized—a work unused, not engaged, or locked away is essentially lost, and the costs of its production lost.
  • A change in policy would actually begin to mitigate a burden that has been on the public for a long time: the lack of access to the research it funds. Without public access the public, small business, K-12 and higher education has limited access.  
  • Brief embargo periods can be utilized to minimize the burden of cost recovery in a subscription (closed access) model but should be lifted as quickly as possible (6-12 months after publication), to allow the public full access with reusable rights.
  • To date, no publisher has provided data that suggests that an embargo period in the open access environment (currently in use by NIH and numerous other funders around the world) has harmed them.
  • The federal government (or other neutral, non-profit, public and taxpayer serving entities) is an appropriate custodian to provide permanent oversight and stewardship of the works. Its success with PubMed Central is an example.

How to respond

The deadline for submissions is January 12, 2012. The eight questions and submission instructions are posted here, http://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2011/11/04/2011-28623/request-for-information-public-access-to-peer-reviewed-scholarly-publications-resulting-from. Submissions should be sent via email to publicaccess@ostp.gov

Thank you for your commitment to public access and the advancement of these crucial policies.

If you have questions, need help in crafting a response, or would like more information don’t hesitate to contact our colleagues in the libraries, Dean Lorraine Haricombe (ljharic@ku.edu) or Ada Emmett (aemmett@ku.edu) at KU Libraries.


Prof. Jeffrey S. Vitter
Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor
Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professor
The University of Kansas

  • Ada Emmett
    Director, Shulenburger Office of Scholarly Communication & Copyright, KU Libraries

  • Josh Bolick
    Scholarly Communication Librarian
    Shulenburger Office of Scholarly Communication & Copyright, KU Libraries

  • Marianne Reed
    Digital Initiatives Manager
    Digital Initiatives, KU Libraries

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