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Public Access Policies

The US government funds research with the expectation that new ideas and discoveries from the research will propel science, stimulate the economy, and improve the lives and welfare of Americans. Legislation and selected agency initiatives would make federally funded research publicly available under certain circumstances. Enhancing access to federally funded research is a priority for the library community as such initiatives improve access by the public, provide for effective archiving strategies for these resources, and ensure accountability of the federal investment.

In addition to funding research, the federal government is the largest producer of information. Numerous federal statutes, executive orders and OMB Circulars provide agencies with guidance concerning the creation, collection, maintenance, dissemination, and preservation of government information. Ensuring effective and long-term access to government information is a priority for the library community, in particular striving to achieve the delicate balance between responding to concerns about homeland security while enabling public access to government information. Updating laws, such as the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to better achieve this balance, is ongoing.

The Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) is a key program that enables public access to federal government information. ARL and others in the library community are engaged in re-examining the role of the FDLP in the networked environment.

Below are links to information and resources on key topics in public access policies.


Access to Federally Funded Research 

The US government funds research with the expectation that new ideas and discoveries from the research will propel science, stimulate the economy, and improve the lives and welfare of Americans. In addition, the government also funds collaborative information technology and network-based infrastructure projects such as investments in supercomputer centers to leveraging investments in collaborative database development such as Genbank. These wide and diverse investments in e-science have fundamentally changed the nature of scientific research and the understanding by members of the research community of how research is conducted and shared. Recently, policy makers have recognized these changes via legislative and administrative processes and are now focused on new strategies to enhance US economic competitiveness, to advance science, to better manage the research investments, and improve access to the fruits of our collective investment.

Legislation and selected agency initiatives would make federally funded research publicly available under certain circumstances. Enhancing access to federally funded research is a priority for the library community as such initiatives improve access by the public, provide for effective archiving strategies for these resources, and ensure accountability of the federal investment.

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SHared Access to Research Ecosystem (SHARE)

ARL, the Association of American Universities (AAU), and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) have drafted a proposal, “SHared Access Research Ecosystem (SHARE)” (PDF), in response to the recent White House directive on public access to federally funded research and data. The three associations envision SHARE as a network of digital repositories at universities, libraries, and other research institutions across the US that will provide long-term public access to federally funded research articles and data.

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Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), enacted in 1966, generally provides that any person has a right of access to federal agency records. The FOIA covers all records under the custody and control of federal executive branch agencies. The FOIA provides access to all federal agency records (or portions of those records) except those which are protected from release by nine specific exemptions (reasons an agency may withhold records from a requester).

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Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP)

Recognizing the need to centralize government printing and to establish a mechanism to provide US citizens with no-fee access to federal government information, Congress passed the Printing Act of 1895 that established the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) within the Government Printing Office (GPO). The FDLP has evolved over more than one hundred years to become one of the most effective and successful partnerships between the federal government and the American people today.

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) is working with the US Government Printing Office (GPO) as well as others in the library community on an effort to ensure that tangible US government documents are made perpetually available through online access to the public at no cost.  

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