A petition urging the White House to expand federal policies requiring free access to taxpayer-funded research papers has gotten the 25,000 signatures needed to trigger a response.
The petition was launched on 13 May by a group of open access advocates including Heather Joseph, executive director of Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition in Washington, D.C. "Requiring the published results of taxpayer-funded research to be posted on the Internet ... would speed the research process and increase the return on our investment in scientific research," the petition states.
It notes that the National Institutes of Health has such a policy. (NIH-funded researchers must submit their peer-reviewed manuscripts for posting in a free archive up to 12 months after publication.) It has been "highly successful" and "proves that this can be done without disrupting the research process," says the petition. "We urge President Obama to act now to implement open access policies for all federal agencies that fund scientific research."
The petition comes amid a flurry of fresh debate in the U.S. Congress and in Europe over public access policies. But while the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy is due to issue a report soon on public access at U.S. research agencies, it reportedly will make general recommendations and will not require an NIH-style policy.
A glance at responses to other petitions suggests advocates shouldn't get their hopes up for more. One example is this plea last fall for more funding for research on pediatric cancer. In a response, National Cancer Institute Director Harold Varmus describes ongoing research and makes no mention of an increase in funding.