Notes on the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act

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FASTR provisions

  • The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research (FASTR) Act is a bill in the US Congress to require open access to the results of most federally-funded research. It's the successor to the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA). FRPAA had been introduced in three earlier sessions of Congress (May 2006, April 2009, and February 2012) but never came up for a vote. In the 113th Congress, Congressional supporters of OA decided to introduce a modified bill. The result is FASTR, a strengthened version of FRPAA.
  • Comparing FASTR and FRPAA is a good way to show the major provisions of each and why FASTR is stronger than FRPAA. (Section numbers in parentheses refer to FASTR, not FRPAA.)
  • How FASTR and FRPAA are alike:
    1. Both cover the same set of agencies, namely, those spending at least $100 million/year to fund extramural research (Section 4.a).
      • This includes the Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, Department of Education, Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Transportation, Environmental Protection Agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the National Science Foundation.
    2. Both give agencies one year from the passage of the bill (4.a) to develop their policies in conformity with the guidelines laid down in the bill.
    3. Both mandate "public access" (4.a.1, 4.b, 4.f.2.A), "free online public access" (4.b.4), and "free public access" (4.b.7.B, 4.f.2.A) without defining these terms.
    4. Both mandate green OA (through repositories) (4.b.7.A), and are silent on gold OA (through journals).
    5. Both require deposit of the final version of the author's peer-reviewed manuscript (4.b.1). Both allow consenting publishers to replace that version with the published version (4.b.3).
    6. Both give agencies freedom to designate a suitable repository for the mandatory deposits, when suitability includes "free public access, interoperability, and long-term preservation" (4.b.7). Agencies may host their own repositories, the way NIH hosts PubMed Central, or ask grantees to deposit in suitable institutional or disciplinary repositories.
    7. Both apply to research funded "in whole or in part" (4.b.1) by one of the covered federal agencies.
    8. Both call for OA "as soon as practicable" after publication in a peer-reviewed journal, and both require OA "no later than 6 months" after publication (4.b.4). Both require immediate OA (unembargoed OA) for works by government-employed researchers (4.c).
      • Update July 27, 2015. The Johnson-Carper Substitute Amendment would allow embargoes up to 12 months, with a stated preference for shorter embargoes. It would also create a procedure for adjusting an agency's maximum permissible embargo, when the change would serve "the public, industries, and the scientific community." See SPARC's July 27, 2015 description of the amendment and its political rationale.
      • Update August 2, 2017. In the 115th Congress, the Senate version of the bill follows the Johnson-Carper amendment from the 114th Congress, and caps embargoes at 12 months, but the House version follows the original version of FASTR and caps embargoes at six months. This is the first time the Senate and House versions of the bill have differed.
    9. Both avoid copyright problems by requiring agency policies to "make effective use of any law or guidance relating to the creation and reservation of a Government license that provides for the reproduction, publication, release, or other uses of a final manuscript for Federal purposes" (4.c.3).
    10. Both exempt classified research, unpublished research, royalty-producing research such as books, and patentable discoveries (4.d.3).
    11. Both are explicit in not amending copyright law or patent law (4.e).
  • How FASTR and FRPAA differ:
    1. FASTR contains a new provision on coordinating agency policies (4.a.2): "To the extent practicable, Federal agencies required to develop a policy...shall follow common procedures for the collection and depositing of research papers." This will reduce the burden on universities that need to comply with procedures at more than one agency, and should have no detrimental effect on OA. Indeed, it should improve compliance with agency OA policies.
    2. FASTR contains three new provisions calling for libre OA or open licensing:
      • FASTR includes a new "finding" in its preamble (2.3): "[T]he United States has a substantial interest in maximizing the impact and utility of the research it funds by enabling a wide range of reuses of the peer-reviewed literature that reports the results of such research, including by enabling computational analysis by state-of-the-art technologies."
      • FASTR includes a formatting and licensing provision (4.b.5): the versions deposited in repositories and made OA shall be distributed "in formats and under terms that enable productive reuse, including computational analysis by state-of-the-art technologies."
      • FASTR requires that the annual report from each covered agency include a statement from the agency on "whether the terms of use applicable to such research papers are effective in enabling productive reuse and computational analysis by state-of-the-art technologies" (4.f.2.B.i) and the results of the agency's "examination of whether such research papers should include a royalty-free copyright license that is available to the public and that permits the reuse of those research papers, on the condition that attribution is given to the author or authors of the research and any others designated by the copyright owner" (4.f.2.B.ii).

FASTR in the 115th Congress

  • FASTR in the Senate (S. 1701)
    • Introduced on August 2, 2017, by John Cornyn (R-TX) and Ron Wyden (D-OR).
      • New co-sponsor added November 14, 2017: Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).
      • Current tally: 3 co-sponsors (1 Republican, 2 Democrats)
    • The Senate version caps embargoes at 12 months; the House version caps them at six months.
    • Follow the Senate version of FASTR in:
    • The bullets above are for the stand-alone version of FASTR. On October 18, 2017, Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced the BASIC Research Act (S. 1973), incorporating much of the language of FASTR, and including other provisions unrelated to open access.
      • So far there is no version of the BASIC Research Act in the House.
      • So far there are no co-sponsors for the BASIC Research Act.
      • Follow the Senate version of the BASIC Research Act in:
  • FASTR in the House (H.R. 3427)
    • Introduced on July 26, 2017, by Mike Doyle (D-PA), Kevin Yoder (R-KS), and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA).
      • New co-sponsor added September 26, 2017: Ro Khanna (D-CA)
      • New co-sponsor added November 14, 2017: Jim Jordan (R-OH)
      • Current tally: 5 co-sponsors (2 Republicans, 3 Democrats)
    • The House version caps embargoes at six months; the Senate version caps them at 12 months.
    • Follow the House version of FASTR in:

FASTR in the 114th Congress

FASTR in the 113th Congress

Major statements of support

Major statements of opposition

Action in support of FASTR

  • Write or phone members of Congress.
    • Thank the sponsors who introduced the bills in the House and Senate.
    • Contact the members of the committees to which the bills were referred, showing your support and urging them to support the bills as well.
    • US citizens should contact their Representatives and Senators, urging them to support or co-sponsor the bills.
    • You can find contact info for members of Congress in or Contacting Congress. For co-sponsors of the House and Senate versions of the bills, and the committees to which the bills were referred, clink on the links above.

Discussion and analysis