Today, Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson and Ranking Member Frank Lucas sent a joint letter on public access to federally funded research to the newly confirmed Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), Dr. Arati Prabhakar. The letter follows OSTP’s August 25, 2022 Memorandum to Executive Departments and Agencies on Ensuring Free, Immediate, and Equitable Access to Federally Funded Research. Among other policy changes, the new Memorandum directs federal agencies to implement policies that allow for immediate public access to publications resulting from federally funded research. It also creates new requirements for digital access to data that is created using federal research funds. The Committee leaders support expanding public access but have questions about how the policy directions in the Memorandum will be implemented in a way that supports stakeholders and the scientific enterprise most effectively.

“We support the goals of the Memorandum of improving access to taxpayer-funded research and greater transparency of research data, but are concerned about the details of how policies will be developed and implemented to maximize their intended value and avoid unintended consequences,” the Chairwoman and Ranking Member said in the letter.

They continued, “the Memorandum is short on details of how the new requirements will be implemented, including how agencies will update their own policies and collaborate with stakeholders to ensure smooth implementation and address new challenges with who can afford to submit their research for publication, or how to ensure the quality of research publications. We are further concerned about the lack of detail with respect to the requirements for digital data. Making data accessible in a way that is truly useful to advance science has always been a more difficult technical, cultural, and economic challenge than making publications available. It is the responsibility of the Federal government not just to ensure that taxpayer funded research is made publicly available (with appropriate protections for privacy and confidentiality), but that it is done in a way that avoids unintended consequences and maximizes the scientific benefits.”

Along with the Memorandum, OSTP issued a report to Congress that considers the potential economic impacts of anticipated federal public access policy changes. In addition to the implementation questions posed in today’s letter, the Chairwoman and Ranking Member have recommended that OSTP conduct additional stakeholder engagement and hold public workshops to address outstanding questions over the coming months.

Read the full letter here.