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When the U.S. Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2014 this week, it included language tucked away in Sec. 527 that gives a huge boost to public access to Federally funded research. The bill requires all Federal agencies with research & development budgets of $100 million+ each year to provide free, online access to peer-reviewed articles stemming from Federal funds within 12 months of publication. The agencies impacted include the Department of Education, the Department of Health and Human Services (which includes the National Institutes of Health, Food and Drug Administration, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, among other sub-agencies), and the Department of Labor.

This builds upon the existing National Institutes of Health Public Access Policy, which itself was legislated in an Omnibus spending bill, and on the February 2013 Directive from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. It also is in keeping with many of the principles of the Federal Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR) legislation that has been introduced to Congress, with bi-partisan support.

Although the details of implementation have yet to be addressed, this is a critical step toward increasing public access to funded research. President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law soon.

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