Senate panel passes bill to give public access to more research

A Senate panel on Wednesday passed legislation to require certain federally funded research to be open to the public. 

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee cleared the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act by voice vote, along with 10 other pieces of legislation. 

ADVERTISEMENT
The bill would require every agency with an outside research budget of $100 million or more to make sure any research paper produced is publicly posted for free within a year of publication in a journal.

President Obama issued a memorandum in 2013 directing agencies to come up with a plan to publish similar research by agencies.

"The public has a right to access government-funded information," the American Library Association said in a statement. "This legislation provides the public ― which includes students in libraries and schools across the nation ― with opportunities to learn and grow from scholarly research.” 

The sponsors of the legislation have said many times federally funded research remains walled off from the public in scholarly journals that require high subscription fees. They have said the bill would touch about 11 agencies. 

The legislation has been backed by a number of library and research groups as well as open government organizations. The legislation was introduced last Congress shortly after the death of Aaron Swartz, and at least one publication has described it as the “other Aaron’s law.”

Swartz committed suicide after being charged under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) in 2011 and was facing up to 35 years in prison and fines up to $1 million for illegally accessing the network at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in order to download millions of academic journal articles from a subscription service. The Justice Department alleged he planned to post those articles on file sharing sites. 

Lawmakers have introduced legislation to reform the CFAA and dubbed it “Aaron’s law.”