September 20, 2021

Open Access Advocates Cheer New Bill Seen as Slayer of Research Works Act


U.S. Representative Mike Doyle (D-PA) introduced a bill today that is a direct counterpart to the proposed Research Works Act (RWA), which has stirred deep opposition among researchers, librarians, and advocates of open access.

Doyle’s bill, Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA) of 2012, would require federal agencies with an “extramural” research budget of $100 million or more to “make federally-funded research available for free online access by the general public, no later than six months after publication in a peer-reviewed journal,” according to a statement on Doyle’s website.

The bill would also require that the “manuscript is preserved in a stable digital repository … that permits free public access, interoperability, and long-term preservation.”

“Americans have the right to see the results of research funded with taxpayer dollars,” Doyle said.

Doyle’s bill would mandate policies similar to the National Institute of Health’s Public Access Policy, but it would reduce the NIH’s maximum embargo from 12 months to six, and the policy would govern all major federal agencies. It also doesn’t specify what repository authors must deposit their manuscripts in, as NIH’s policy does.

Peter Suber, a prominent open access advocate, has provided a breakdown of Doyle’s bill for the Harvard Open Access Project.

“FRPAA would mandate OA for more research literature than any other policy ever adopted or ever proposed,” Suber wrote.

Opponents of the Research Works Act, co-sponsored by Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), say it would put the results of federally funded research behind a pay wall. The bill is supported by the American Association of Publishers (AAP) and large scholarly publishing concerns such as Elsevier (which is now the subject of a boycott).

In a recent statement, Elsevier said that it supported RWA as a way to ensure “the sustainability of the peer-review publishing system.”  However, in an analysis this month of public policy implications of open access, NIH concluded that it entailed no evident harm to publishers.

A number of AAP members, including, MIT Press, Pennsylvania State University Press, Rockefeller University Press, University of California Press, and others, have distanced themselves from AAP’s support for the measure.

On his blog today, Michael Eisen, who has led opposition to RWA, challenged these publishers to now shift their support to Doyle’s bill:

The big question now is whether all the publishers who disowned the Research Works Act amidst its bad publicity will take the logical next step and express their support for FRPAA. I’m sure the Association of American Publishers and Elsevier will come out against FRPAA, but public support for the bill from other members of the AAP would greatly undermine their stance.

Identical legislation will also be introduced in the U.S. Senate today by a bipartisan group that comprises Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), according to Doyle’s office. 

Michael Kelley About Michael Kelley

Michael Kelley is the former Editor-in-Chief, Library Journal.