Let the White House know what you think about Open Access to the research literature

Have you ever failed to get hold of a scientific article you wanted to read? Had the failure something to do with a paywall surrounding the article and its siblings?

If your answer was confirmative on both accounts, chances are that you would like to have a closer look at a petition that aims to rarify such circumstances for research funded by U.S. taxpayers. Started last night, the target of the initiative is the White House, and anyone can sign the petition, not just U.S. citizens or residents. If 25,000 signatures are reached by June 19 (the current count is 3859), the White House will have to respond in an official manner to the proposal, which reads:

We petition the Obama administration to Require free access over the Internet to scientific journal articles arising from taxpayer-funded research. We believe in the power of the Internet to foster innovation, research, and education. Requiring the published results of taxpayer-funded research to be posted on the Internet in human and machine readable form would provide access to patients and caregivers, students and their teachers, researchers, entrepreneurs, and other taxpayers who paid for the research. Expanding access would speed the research process and increase the return on our investment in scientific research. The highly successful Public Access Policy of the National Institutes of Health proves that this can be done without disrupting the research process, and we urge President Obama to act now to implement open access policies for all federal agencies that fund scientific research.


If you replied “no” to either or both of the introductory questions, or if you disagree with the petition, I would be especially interested in your comments. I have signed the document (as #16), since one of the ways to satisfy such a “public access policy” is actual Open Access (in the sense of the Budapest Open Access Initiative), which is the first step towards a more open science communication culture. It it also provides a foundation on which free knowledge projects like those run by the Wikimedia Foundation or the Open Knowledge Foundation can develop.

The links between Wikimedia and Open Access have recently been the subject of a special report in the Signpost, and further details can be found in the Research Committee’s response to the White House Request for Information on Open Access. Both documents emphasize the importance of the reusability of Open Access materials.

As a token of illustration, I am pasting in below the list of files that have served as Open Access File of the Day on Wikimedia Commons  so far. Click on an image to get to its metadata page. Together, these 174 files have been used to date on well over 10,000 pages within 176 Wikimedia projects.




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