AERA Responds to OSTP Request on Public Access to Publications, Data, and Code from Federally-Funded Research
AERA Responds to OSTP Request on Public Access to Publications, Data, and Code from Federally-Funded Research

May  2020

On May 6, AERA Executive Director Felice J. Levine submitted comments to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) on its request for information (RFI) on public access to publications, data, and code from federally funded research grants. 

OSTP and the National Science and Technology Council’s (NSTC) Subcommittee on Open Science (SOS) are engaged in efforts to continue implementation of the 2013 OSTP memorandum “Increasing Access to the Results of Federally Funded Scientific Research.” The memorandum provided guidelines for federal research agencies developing policies for public access to publications and data from federally funded research. The guidelines included a 12-month embargo period for peer-reviewed journal publications. 

The RFI sought input on three topics: 

  • Current limitations on the effective communication of research outputs and how communications might evolve to accelerate public access while advancing the quality of scientific research.
  • Ways that federal agencies could do more to make taxpayer-funded research results freely and publicly accessible in a way that minimizes delay, maximizes access, and enhances usability; and how this could be done through partnerships with other sectors.
  • How American science leadership and American competitiveness would benefit from immediate access to these resources.

In her letter, Levine reaffirmed AERA’s long-standing commitment to providing public access to research and scholarly publications, and to the data and code supporting those publications, while addressing challenges to arriving at financially sustainable models that can nurture, sustain, and support innovative and inclusive work. 

“AERA has advanced open access through publication of an open access journal, AERA Open, open access to articles in Educational Researcher, and through providing authors in all seven AERA journals with toll free links that can be listed on their vita and posted on their websites,” wrote Levine. “In addition, AERA has an Online Paper Repository for peer-reviewed papers at early versioning stages of the knowledge production cycle that is freely offered to authors and to users.”

“One of the areas of inhibition about open access publishing is the high cost relative to the low public gain,” Levine continued. “That may indeed be true, but presents us with an opportunity to elevate access to science as a more accessible public good.”

“Making knowledge free does not mean it is accessible or will be used,” Levine continued. “We urge OSTP to examine this very question and consider the potential role of scientific societies in translating and mediating the communication of knowledge to diverse public and policy communities, building communications capacities in our next generation of scientists, and expanding the accessibility and relevance of content through accompanying ‘science facts and findings’ and ‘data counts’ type resources.”

Levine also urged OSTP “to encourage agencies to support reasonable costs for access to data sets and code from federally funded research and to the allocation of resources to cover article-publishing costs that are also about data and code.” 

In December 2019, AERA joined a coalition of scholarly organizations on a letter to President Trump in response to a rumored policy change to eliminate the current 12-month embargo. The aim of the letter was to defer shifting to a fully open-access model without a period for designed consideration and discussion of various models and mechanisms for doing so and the cost implications of each. 

As Levine stated at the time, “We believe that an even more open policy is feasible and potentially even desirable, but we urge, as in the past, that there be an open period of input to arrive at optimal feasible solutions.”

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