Open-access petitioners trigger White House response

June 6, 2012

A petition asking the Obama administration to implement an open-access mandate for all publicly funded research has reached the required number of signatories to trigger an official response.

The petition has garnered nearly 26,000 signatures since it was launched on the White House website on 20 May. The administration has pledged to respond to any petitions that are signed by more than 25,000 people.

The petition calls on the administration to extend the open-access mandate currently imposed by the National Institutes of Health to all federal funders of research.

Its organisers, a group of advocates under the banner “Access2Research”, said on their website that they hoped to blow the 25,000 target “out of the water” to demonstrate to the White House that “this issue matters to people, not just a few publishers”.

Mike Taylor, an open-access advocate and a palaeontologist affiliated with the University of Bristol, said the widespread support the petition had received from many non-academic groups, media outlets and even “forward-thinking” subscription publishers put paid to the “pernicious lie” that “open access isn’t important because research is useless to non-specialists”.

“All of this makes the crucial point that open access isn’t just an esoteric preference of a few disgruntled academics, as the hugely profitable commercial subscription-based academic publishers have consistently tried to paint it”, he said.

Stephen Curry, professor of structural biology at Imperial College London and another prominent supporter of open access, agreed that the petition would be a “great boost” to the global push for open access.

“With the UK, the EU and now the US all moving in the same direction, I very much hope that we can realise the international coordination that will be needed to make open access work worldwide,” he said.

The UK’s approach to access will be informed by the conclusions, due to be published this month, of a group of publishers, librarians and funders chaired by former Keele University vice-chancellor Dame Janet Finch and convened by David Willetts, minister for universities and science.

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