A House bill aiming to make research and data open to the public

Climategate demonstrated what can go wrong when a few misguided scientists take control of data and keep it from the public. Now there’s a movement afoot to make open access to data and research papers a law.

Congress takes another stride toward public access to research

Federal Research Public Access Act introduced in the House of Representatives

Washington, DC – Fueling the growing momentum toward openness, transparency, and accessibility to publicly funded information, the Federal Research Public Access Act of 2010 (FRPAA) has been introduced today in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA) and a bi-partisan host of co-sponsors. The proposed bill would build on the success of the first U.S. mandate for public access to the published results of publicly funded research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and require federal agencies with annual extramural research budgets of $100 million or more to provide the public with online access to research manuscripts stemming from funded research no later than six months after publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

“Free and open access to scientific literature and data are the underpinnings of discovery in the digital age,” said Stephen Friend MD PhD, President and Co-Founder of Sage Bionetworks. “Full collaboration among researchers is essential, and we have the power now to communicate, collaborate, and innovate in ways that were previously unimaginable. I applaud the sponsors of the Federal Research Public Access Act for their commitment to ensuring the kind of access scientists need to make progress on improved disease treatments and diagnostics in the digital world.”

Like the Senate bill introduced in 2009 by Senators Lieberman (I-CT) and Cornyn (R-TX), H.R. 5037 would unlock unclassified research funded by agencies including: 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.

H.R. 5037 follows closely on the heels of a recent expression of interest in public access policies from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, which issued a request for public comment on mechanisms that would leverage federal investments in scientific research and increase access to information that promises to stimulate scientific and technological innovation and competitiveness.

“This bill recognizes the urgent need – and opportunity – to use digital technology to increase the pace of innovation,” added Elliot Schwartz, Vice President for Economic Studies at the Committee for Economic Development. “The bill is a crucial, welcome move toward advancing research through openness and avoiding making the taxpayer pay twice for taxpayer-funded research… it is good public policy.”

The introduction of H.R. 5037 was also welcomed by leaders in the higher education community, who recognize this legislation helps to ensure the United States is positioned to continue to fuel education and innovation.

“Conducting critical research that enriches and improves lives has always been a key mission of universities in this country, including Ohio State,” said E. Gordon Gee, president of The Ohio State University. “Disseminating the knowledge gained from that research is an equally important part of our institutions’ public purpose. The Federal Research Public Access Act will further spread new knowledge, and it has my full support.”

“Advancing research is at the core of the mission of higher education, and broadening access to the scholarly record is a critical step in helping research to advance to its fullest potential,” added Karen Hanson, Provost and Executive Vice President, Indiana University. “The current system for exchanging the results of research is deeply flawed, and major changes – like this bill – are required. I welcome the introduction of the Federal Research Public Access Act.”


The Alliance for Taxpayer Access thanks and congratulates Representative Doyle and all of the bill’s co-sponsors for championing this pivotal legislation, and calls on organizations and individuals to write in support of the bill through the Web site at http://www.taxpayeraccess.org.

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April 15, 2010 10:23 pm

Yay… another bill that can be loaded up with Pork.

April 15, 2010 10:25 pm

“Bi-partisan”! Yay!

Mike Bryant
April 15, 2010 10:38 pm

Anything that comes out of Washington D C is suspect in my book… It’s time to shut it down… lay everyone, yes… EVERYONE off, and start over… I have a feeling that someone’s cousin or uncle will get rich administering this latest truth bill… enough’s enough…. we ain’t got no more cash…

April 15, 2010 10:49 pm

OPEN ACCESS SCIENCE in the works. In the end it looks like we’ll get access to the data without their cooperation… with or without their help their publicly funded climate science in the USA will be audited by those who think it needs to be. It would have been better with the cooperation of publicly funded alleged climate scientists… but heck we’ll take it anyway we can get it. [:)]

April 15, 2010 10:50 pm

What about a Bill of Law to make Politicians and their dealings transparent… all of them all with transcrips?

April 15, 2010 10:52 pm

It won’t be worth a hill of beans unless a Dr. Spencer can blog with each pile of released information.

Doug in Seattle
April 15, 2010 10:58 pm

If it’s what it purports to be, then I’m all for it. Given Congress’s record, I am skeptical of how AGW post normal “scientists” will be handled.

April 15, 2010 11:17 pm

H.R. 5037 would unlock unclassified research funded by agencies including:

Or at least no where near as useful as it sounds. NASA, for example, covers its satellite data under ITAR, the International Traffic in Arms Regulations. No doubt NASA is concerned that if Hezbollah ever got their hands on AMSU data, they could carpet bomb the Israelis with bad climate projections the way NASA has done to America for 25 years.
See: http://magicjava.blogspot.com/2010/02/weather-and-international-traffic-in.html
This proposed law would do nothing to change that situation.
Similarly, I just requested information on the atmospheric scan depth for each footprint on AMSU channel 5 via the FOIA. NASA claimed they didn’t have that information, even though it’s impossible to properly perform the processing they perform on the AMSU scans without knowing what level of the atmosphere each footprint is scanning.
The problem is the data and code is being treated like government property, not public property.
Until that changes by placing data and code in the public domain, laws like this proposed bill are welcome, but superficial. They only treat the problem around the edges.

April 15, 2010 11:30 pm

The general idea is great. We can only hope that the execution is great too.

April 15, 2010 11:38 pm

Open access will go part of the way to addressing the problem of climategate. However the really big problem was that in effect climate “science” developed as a one party state which was allowed to squash any opposition. Science needs healthy debate, it needs people able to actively question ideas. When the funding regime is controlled to ensure only one idea of how things works gets any funding, there will be few able to actively question the “official party line”.
I think what science needs is the equivalent of the “hippocratic oath”. Every “scientist” should promise amongst other things to:
1. Be impartial (and not by eco-campaigners)
2. Base their comments on the evidence (not their politics)
3. Distinguish clearly between scientific “opinion” which has not been subject to scientific test (virtually all claims of global warming) and scientific “fact” which are predictions that have been scientifically tested.

April 15, 2010 11:47 pm

Note: Unintended Visual Recognition
That graphic, with what looks like an open padlock but also looks like a letter “a”, instantly made me think of AOpen, maker of motherboards and other PC components.
Well, guess I earned my Geek Points for the day.

April 16, 2010 12:13 am

What a concept. We get what we pay for.

April 16, 2010 2:21 am

This is a great opportunity for the US to put science back on a solid footing again. Anything has to better than the cover up and head burying that is rampant in British Institutions. Lord Oxburgh, chair of Falck Renewables, a firm that has wind farms across Europe, and chair of the Carbon Capture and Storage Association, even with those vested interest was brazenly chosen to head up the CRU whitewash. This is indicative how primitive data and educational standards have become in the UK, close-enough science and rough data is now the norm.

April 16, 2010 2:24 am

The recent memorandum submitted by the Institute of Physics (CRU 39) to UK Parliament has some excellent suggestions as to how to go about providing open research data to the public akin to the open source software development process. Below is an extract of some of the more relevant pleas:
7. Fundamentally, we consider it should be inappropriate for the verification of the integrity of the scientific process to depend on appeals to Freedom of Information legislation. Nevertheless, the right to such appeals has been shown to be necessary. The e-mails illustrate the possibility of networks of like-minded researchers effectively excluding newcomers. Requiring data to be electronically accessible to all, at the time of publication, would remove this possibility.
8. As a step towards restoring confidence in the scientific process and to provide greater transparency in future, the editorial boards of scientific journals should work towards setting down requirements for open electronic data archiving by authors, to coincide with publication. Expert input (from journal boards) would be needed to determine the category of data that would be archived. Much ‘raw’ data requires calibration and processing through interpretive codes at various levels.
9. Where the nature of the study precludes direct replication by experiment, as in the case of time-dependent field measurements, it is important that the requirements include access to all the original raw data and its provenance, together with the criteria used for, and effects of, any subsequent selections, omissions or adjustments. The details of any statistical procedures, necessary for the independent testing and replication, should also be included. In parallel, consideration should be given to the requirements for minimum disclosure in relation to computer modelling.

April 16, 2010 2:30 am

I work in Mike Doyle’s district, He is one of the biggest promoters of “Green Jobs” boondoggles in government.
IF he’s doing this, there’s more to it. Did anyone notice if this applies to private sector companies receiving federal research funds? I’ll check.
If it’s legit, I’ll give him credit–but I’ll be very surprised.

April 16, 2010 3:19 am

I wish we could get a similar bill in Europe.
Here, I must say, all the EGU (European Geophysical Union) journals are open access: http://www.egu.eu/publications/statement.html unlike the AGU. However, most of climatic and meteorological data are closed behind many doors, unlike the NOAA and NWS data in the US. And that despite the fact that they are paid by taxpayer money, the worst case being the ECMWF, the European weather model.

Alan the Brit
April 16, 2010 3:52 am

Can’t locate it at the moment, but I commented a while back that Noo Labour had suggested to the science community that, should they get back into power, their science policy would be to “forbid” scientific study for the sake of curiosity! They can cover themselves with budget contraints & specific study requirements for societal benefit etc, but the sinister overtones of “1984” are there, science will only study what the State permits it to study. Data may be made available but if it isn’t studied, what’s the point?
A tad OT, public sector union “Unison” has implied “vital front-line” services would be slashed by any government other than Noo Labour. Teachers, nurses, police, emergency services, careworkers, etc. There are however, other public sector posts that could go first which are not quite so “vital” & “front-line”, running at around£25,000/year with a pension to boot, such as Street Football Co-ordinator, Police Authority Press Officer, Neighbourhood Co-ordinator, Equalities Project Officer, Environmental Arms Length Officer (whatever he is), Resident Involvment Officer, Mind & Nutritian Officer, Play Strategy Manager, Enviro-Crimes Enforcement Officer, Drama Therapist, Healthy Schools Advisor, Personal Best Advisor, Senior Play Ranger, Sustainability Events Manager, CCTV Enforcement Officer. The list goes on, & on!!!! Watch out for similar posts in your colonial town councils! Street Football Co-ordinator? In my day we put 2 sweaters on the ground each end for goal posts & kicked a tennis ball around for an hour. Instead of taxing us Brits then finding out what to spend the cash on so creating these non-jobs, they could have at least spent it on improving the “front-line” services we do have! Approximate number of manufactiuring jobs lost in UK since June 1997 General Election, 750,000, increase in public sector employees since same, 650,000!

April 16, 2010 5:03 am

Alan the Brit (03:52:37) :
Canada is in the same boat. Lost many manufacturing plants and replaced with publics sector jobs. We also incorporated new taxes and increased the payment from our paychecks into employment insurance. Increased our hydro rates 4 times in 2 years as the huge subsities for wind turbines. Major debts in federal, provincial and municiple levels for the programs to keep the economy going.
Going to be a rough future.

April 16, 2010 5:19 am

In the latest move toward data transparency, the US government has announced that it will make available any data anyone wants on 200 BPI 7 track tapes without software to read them. Senator Waxman hailed this as a great leap forward in dispelling any conspiracy theories on the part of climate skeptics.

Darkinbad the Brightdayler
April 16, 2010 5:40 am

Queens told to hand over tree ring data:

Henry chance
April 16, 2010 6:42 am

Successful and clean companies will avoid public funding to a greater extent. They don’t want to get raked over the coals by Waxman along with chewing tobacco by baseball players.
The companies that do take gubment funding will get more supervision by the gubment on what they study and what the results of the studies must be.

Henry chance
April 16, 2010 6:49 am

This has some heavy duty trade offs. I will be able to walk into Lisa Jackson office, as she directs the EPA and demand a look at the research she has paid for that prove CO2 from humans is not only warming this planet by reason of our fuel consumption, but we are reaching a tipping point.
The EPA reviews research so they say, but no one can see it. They are not an original research institute.
Many people would get excited on pinning down the slippery EPA and it’s “findings” regarding the toxicity of CO2.

April 16, 2010 7:22 am

The FCC intends to put restrictions on the internet. They also want restrictions on politics in the media that the current head of the FCC (and some others in Washington) doesn’t agree with. Maybe this new proposal has a chance to open things some in some areas. But I’m not holding my breath. Global warming ‘science’ will probably find some loophole and stay closed to the public.

April 16, 2010 7:22 am

Raw data or data after convenient make up or after being lipoed?

April 16, 2010 7:30 am

The eternal problem – the way things ought’a be and the way things is.
The crux of the eternal problem is how honest we are about the reality of the world we live in. Slick was a slippery dirty dog, but he had a point about “it” all depending on what the meaning of “is” is.
The way things “is” today is NOT a free and open union of humanity, we are not one world under the Queen, or Obama, or the pathetic UN, or anyone else; the “is” of it is that we are not too far removed from the great and glorious days of WWI and WWII and ____(insert your own more recent war).
I, personnaly, don’t want to hand over anything that could come back and zap me to about 50% of the folks on the planet, make that 91%. So putting “everything” new in research on the web doesn’t appeal to me.
There IS a BIG difference between the way things Ought’a be and the way they IS.

April 16, 2010 7:40 am

…and, last but not least, wait for a big tsunami of “undoubtful” adjusted data, which will consequently prove “beyond shadow of doubt” how real is Climate Change, so those who oppose these “scientific proofs” (post-normal-ethical-uncertain-science, of course) are despicable stubborn deniers, politically biased, who are a real menace for the welfare of the mankind and, consequently, are endangering democracy and freedom, and , being their actions, evidently against nature and human rights, they should be considered as prosecutable by the International Crime Court.

p.g.sharrow "PG"
April 16, 2010 8:20 am

All government data “classified”, problem solved.

April 16, 2010 8:20 am

I find it strange that an act of congress is required to make the results of publicly funded research available to the public that funded it.

William R
April 16, 2010 8:22 am

Certainly if the research is free and transparent for citizens, then it will also be free and transparent for non-citizens. What’s the point of making a national investment in R&D if any other country can freely benefit from the results? How does that help the US gain a competitive advantage? Or is this just another feel good government “fix” to a problem they created, which will only make the problem worse? I am speaking of course about real research that has actual economic value, so maybe we can make some kind of exception for climate science.

Steve Fitzpatrick
April 16, 2010 8:34 am

I wish it were immediate, not after six months, but it is a step in the right direction. Let’s hope it passes and becomes law.

April 16, 2010 9:03 am

This has got to be a step in the right direction. If the public is paying the public has a right to access. Public institutions have an obligation to make its information available to the owners, the tax payers. Nice sounding words we can all agree with. As always the devil is in the details. I learned many years ago, in my association with senior civil servants, they believe they have a right or claim on both the tax dollars in their budgets and the associated trappings of office. I strongly suspect this is a universal attitude but my sample is limited to only about a dozen countries. One gets the feeling this is part of the job description.
Like all question this one has many sides. My test is when none find it fully acceptable it must be on the right track.

Gary Pearse
April 16, 2010 9:32 am

Perhaps this is what we might term “Post Normal Science”. It certainly isn’t normal to share like this. Maybe we will hear from Dr Ravetz

D.R. Williams
April 16, 2010 10:10 am

The thing lacking is a requirement that the data gathered–all of it–be delivered to the funding source and be made available to the public.

John from CA
April 16, 2010 11:05 am

“Advancing research is at the core of the mission of higher education, and broadening access to the scholarly record is a critical step in helping research to advance to its fullest potential,” added Karen Hanson, Provost and Executive Vice President, Indiana University. “The current system for exchanging the results of research is deeply flawed, and major changes – like this bill – are required. I welcome the introduction of the Federal Research Public Access Act.”
Proactive comment:
Resources are the biggest issue related to confirmation of results (assuming the basis of the data is actually documented and also available).
The SETI project introduced Wide Area computing to crunch the massive data set and the public supported the effort. Is there any reason this couldn’t be implemented to support Peer Review efforts from a community like WUWT on behalf of the Science community?
If the concern is that someone may choose to skew results from wide area computing, I’ve got a couple of computers I’d be happy to donate to the cause. An array of old Mac computers configured in an array delivers a great super computer. A trick used by many University Research Labs.
Making Public resources available to the Science community at large could be a great first step to eliminating skewed Politically driven “Science”?

April 16, 2010 12:11 pm

It’s about time the taxpayer found out where all this money is going to study global warming. What will be the ultimate eye-opener is how much research money goes towards manmade gw as opposed to natural gw. What do you think the ratio is: 2-1, 5-1, 20-1, 50-1? My guess is 853-1. And the winner is?
Next, I suggest that Congress require for all future wind turbine projects (a) electric meters be installed to measure how much power is being USED, and (b) an embodied energy or EROEI analysis be submitted to prove its viability. These two things would conclusively prove the tremendous waste of energy and resources associated with wind power. I calculate the EROEI of wind turbine facilities at 0.24, which is worse than solar at 0.48. Anything less than 1 is a loss.

April 16, 2010 1:41 pm

This will never see the light of day. Too many entrenched economic interests, from all quadrants of the political spectrum, utilize the system as it is to advance their specific agendas. Our representatives don’t have the will to resist the onslaught of lobbyists who no doubt will be busy on this one!

April 16, 2010 3:04 pm

What an insane world? I can’t believe they need to make laws to get data out in the open. As a scientist I would be thrilled if someone cared enough about what I was doing to ask for my data. That would be a sign to me that my work was appreciated and important.
Also, the great thing about data is that they are never wrong. Your analysis might be, but not your data. Unless it has been ‘adjusted’ to fit a deeply held paradigm, in which case you better keep it out of others hands.

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