Responding to concerns from advocates for public access to government-funded research, the House of Representatives science committee has agreed to shorten the deadline within a draft bill requiring federal agencies to provide free access to scientific papers that they supported.
The amendment was one of just a few passed yesterday evening as the House science committee deliberated over  the Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science, and Technology (FIRST) Act, a controversial bill that would reauthorize the National Science Foundation (NSF) and several other science agencies. Section 303 of FIRST required that NSF and other science agencies make papers accepted by a peer-reviewed journal freely available within 24 months with the possibility of extending that to 3 years . The lengthy delay drew complaints from some advocates of public access, who noted it was longer than the 12-month embargo embraced by White House officials and many U.S. scientific societies and publishers. But some science publishers had argued the longer delay was needed in certain research fields to protect journal subscriptions and society revenues.
The new Section 303, sponsored by representatives Jim Sensenbrenner (R–WI) and Zoe Lofgren (D–CA), reduces the embargo period from 24 months to just 12 months. It could be extended to 18 months if stakeholders can show that “the public interest will be substantially and uniquely harmed” by the 1-year embargo. The changes put the FIRST bill in line with a White House directive issued in February 2013 that requires all science agencies to develop plans for making papers freely available, generally within 1 year . The Sensenbrenner-Lofgren amendment also says that agencies must report to Congress on their plans within 90 days and implement a policy within 1 year.
Open-access advocates welcomed the changes. “The new language fixes a major problem,” the 24-month embargo, said Heather Joseph, executive director of the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition in Washington, D.C., in a statement today. Other countries with public-access policies have embargoes of 12 months or less, Joseph notes.