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Increasing Public Access to the Results of Scientific Research
By Dr. John Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy
Thank you for your participation in the We the People platform. The Obama Administration agrees that citizens deserve easy access to the results of research their tax dollars have paid for. As you may know, the Office of Science and Technology Policy has been looking into this issue for some time and has reached out to the public on two occasions for input on the question of how best to achieve this goal of democratizing the results of federally-funded research. Your petition has been important to our discussions of this issue.
The logic behind enhanced public access is plain. We know that scientific research supported by the Federal Government spurs scientific breakthroughs and economic advances when research results are made available to innovators. Policies that mobilize these intellectual assets for re-use through broader access can accelerate scientific breakthroughs, increase innovation, and promote economic growth. That’s why the Obama Administration is committed to ensuring that the results of federally-funded scientific research are made available to and useful for the public, industry, and the scientific community.
Moreover, this research was funded by taxpayer dollars. Americans should have easy access to the results of research they help support.
To that end, I have issued a memorandum today (.pdf) to Federal agencies that directs those with more than $100 million in research and development expenditures to develop plans to make the results of federally-funded research publically available free of charge within 12 months after original publication. As you pointed out, the public access policy adopted by the National Institutes of Health has been a great success. And while this new policy call does not insist that every agency copy the NIH approach exactly, it does ensure that similar policies will appear across government.
As I mentioned, these policies were developed carefully through extensive public consultation. We wanted to strike the balance between the extraordinary public benefit of increasing public access to the results of federally-funded scientific research and the need to ensure that the valuable contributions that the scientific publishing industry provides are not lost. This policy reflects that balance, and it also provides the flexibility to make changes in the future based on experience and evidence. For example, agencies have been asked to use a 12-month embargo period as a guide for developing their policies, but also to provide a mechanism for stakeholders to petition the agency to change that period. As agencies move forward with developing and implementing these polices, there will be ample opportunity for further public input to ensure they are doing the best possible job of reconciling all of the relevant interests.
In addition to addressing the issue of public access to scientific publications, the memorandum requires that agencies start to address the need to improve upon the management and sharing of scientific data produced with Federal funding. Strengthening these policies will promote entrepreneurship and jobs growth in addition to driving scientific progress. Access to pre-existing data sets can accelerate growth by allowing companies to focus resources and efforts on understanding and fully exploiting discoveries instead of repeating basic, pre-competitive work already documented elsewhere. For example, open weather data underpins the forecasting industry and provides great public benefits, and making human genome sequences publically available has spawned many biomedical innovations—not to mention many companies generating billions of dollars in revenues and the jobs that go with them. Going forward, wider availability of scientific data will create innovative economic markets for services related to data curation, preservation, analysis, and visualization, among others.
So thank you again for your petition. I hope you will agree that the Administration has done its homework and responded substantively to your request.
This Is Not the Petition Response You’re Looking For
By Paul Shawcross, Chief of the Science and Space Branch at the White House Office of Management and Budget
The Administration shares your desire for job creation and a strong national defense, but a Death Star isn’t on the horizon. Here are a few reasons:
However, look carefully (here’s how) and you’ll notice something already floating in the sky — that’s no Moon, it’s a Space Station! Yes, we already have a giant, football field-sized International Space Station in orbit around the Earth that’s helping us learn how humans can live and thrive in space for long durations. The Space Station has six astronauts — American, Russian, and Canadian — living in it right now, conducting research, learning how to live and work in space over long periods of time, routinely welcoming visiting spacecraft and repairing onboard garbage mashers, etc. We’ve also got two robot science labs — one wielding a laser — roving around Mars, looking at whether life ever existed on the Red Planet.
Keep in mind, space is no longer just government-only. Private American companies, through NASA’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Program Office (C3PO), are ferrying cargo — and soon crew — to space for NASA, and are pursuing human missions to the Moon this decade.
Even though the United States doesn’t have anything that can do the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs, we’ve got two spacecraft leaving the Solar System and we’re building a probe that will fly to the exterior layers of the Sun. We are discovering hundreds of new planets in other star systems and building a much more powerful successor to the Hubble Space Telescope that will see back to the early days of the universe.
We don’t have a Death Star, but we do have floating robot assistants on the Space Station, a President who knows his way around a light saber and advanced (marshmallow) cannon, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which is supporting research on building Luke’s arm, floating droids, and quadruped walkers.
We are living in the future! Enjoy it. Or better yet, help build it by pursuing a career in a science, technology, engineering or math-related field. The President has held the first-ever White House science fairs and Astronomy Night on the South Lawn because he knows these domains are critical to our country’s future, and to ensuring the United States continues leading the world in doing big things.
If you do pursue a career in a science, technology, engineering or math-related field, the Force will be with us! Remember, the Death Star’s power to destroy a planet, or even a whole star system, is insignificant next to the power of the Force.
Supporting School Libraries and the Critical Role They Play
By Roberto Rodriguez, Special Assistant to the President for Education Policy
Thank you for your petition on the importance of ensuring that every child in America has access to an effective school library program. President Obama has stated that reading is the foundation upon which all other learning is built, and school libraries play a significant role in constructing and enriching that foundation. School libraries do much more than house books and store data: a school library can broaden the horizon of learning for students and link them with communities and experiences far beyond their own classroom and community.
Literacy is critical to the success of our students and to our strength as a nation, and the Obama Administration recognizes that all Americans — children and adults — need literacy skills to succeed in the dynamic and competitive 21st century economy. The Administration believes that if we want to give every child a fair shot in life, we must open doors of opportunity while they’re young and teach them the skills they’ll need to succeed. This means that one of our greatest responsibilities as citizens, as educators, and as parents is to ensure that every child in America cannot only read, but possess the skills to comprehend, analyze, and think critically about the text. School libraries are critical to making sure that this happens. School libraries are a place where our students can develop a love of learning and discover big ideas that help move the American story forward.
In 2010, President Obama proposed a comprehensive reform of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) — known as No Child Left Behind — which includes a new proposal requiring states to develop comprehensive pre-K through 12 literacy plans and to align federal, state, and local funds to provide high-quality literacy instruction. States would be asked to carry out strategies to improve literacy instruction statewide, such as supporting districts in identifying effective instructional materials and improving the knowledge and skills of teachers and librarians to support literacy instruction for all students. Improving library services is among the small number of literacy programs specifically highlighted as a use of funding through these grant programs — and a key way in which the President is calling for increased resources for school libraries.
Congress has yet to act on the President’s proposal. But in the meantime, the President is supporting the work of effective reading and literacy programs through initiatives already in place at the Department of Education. In his fiscal year 2013 Budget, President Obama requested $186.9 million for the Effective Teaching and Learning in Literacy competitive grant program, which would help States strengthen their literacy programs, especially in high-need schools, by developing comprehensive, evidence-based, preschool-through-grade-12 literacy plans and aligning resources to provide high-quality literacy instruction. This program builds on recent innovative programs at the Department, such as the Striving Readers program which funds comprehensive literacy efforts in States from birth through 12th grade, and consolidates a number of past funding streams supporting literacy and library services to provide states and districts with the increased flexibility to spend funds on the literacy programs that are most needed and will be the most effective for their students.
The Obama Administration remains committed to supporting school libraries and the critical role they play in providing resources and support for all students in their learning, to ensure that all students — regardless of their circumstances — are able to graduate from school ready for success in college and career.
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