The Fair Access to Science and Technology Act, better known as FASTR, would require some federally funded research to be available to the public. Specifically, FASTR applies to nonclassified research by government agencies and departments with annual extramural research expenditures of over $100 million. Here’s how it works:
Upon publication, publishers would be the exclusive distributors of applicable peer-reviewed articles for a specified embargo period. Following the embargo period, the research must be housed in a repository that provides public access and long-term preservation. The embargo periods are different in the House and Senate versions of the bill.
Government mandates for public access to federally funded research are not new. In the US, a 2013 policy memo directed some federal agencies to make plans to share their research publicly. In 2014, a federal appropriations act had similar mandates. This is the third Congress in which FASTR has been introduced. FASTR’s predecessor, the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA), was also introduced in three sessions of Congress beginning in 2006 but never became law.
Opponents of FASTR include the Association of American Publishers (AAP). While the organization agrees with the premise of public access to taxpayer-funded research, it wants more flexible embargo periods than FASTR allows, and it argues that existing mandates serve the bill’s aims.
More information about FASTR is available through the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard and the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, better known as SPARC.