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Coalition Calls on White House to Open Up Access to Federally Funded Educational Resources

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image CC-BY-SA by opensource.com

Today, August 4, 2015, ARL along with a broad coalition of more than 90 education, library, technology, public interest, and legal organizations, called on the White House to take administrative action to ensure federally funded educational materials are made available as open education resources (OERs) that are free to use, share, and improve.

The call, coordinated by the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), comes in response to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy’s (OSTP) request for ideas to strengthen the US Open Government National Action Plan. The executive action envisioned by the coalition would build upon the Obama Administration’s strong leadership in advancing public access to publicly funded resources with a strong Executive Branch–wide policy for the open licensing of educational, training, and instructional materials created with federal funds.

“At a time when educational opportunity, workforce development, and access to knowledge are critical to America’s future, taxpayers should have access to the educational and training materials arising from billions of dollars invested in relevant programs each year,” said Nicole Allen, SPARC director of open education. “We’re grateful for President Obama’s leadership in advancing public access to publicly funded resources and urge the Administration to use this opportunity to make federally funded educational materials available as open education resources that are free to use, share, and improve.”

David H. Carlson, chair of the ARL Advocacy and Public Policy Committee and dean of the Texas A&M University Libraries, said, “Making federally funded education resources openly and freely available furthers the mission of research libraries to facilitate affordable access to materials in support of teaching, learning, and research.”

The coalition has outlined five core principles for Administration policy on this issue:

  1. Adopt a broad definition of educational materials.
  2. Provide free access via the Internet.
  3. Create conditions for resources that enable reuse.
  4. Require prompt implementation.
  5. Report regularly on progress and results.

Members of the public can join the call for opening up taxpayer-funded educational materials by tweeting with hashtag #OERUSA and by signing the letter at http://www.oerusa.org/. A PDF of the letter sent to the White House today is available on the ARL website.

Background (Courtesy of SPARC)

The US Government currently invests billions of taxpayer dollars each year in programs that include the creation of educational, training, and instructional materials through grants, contracts, and other cooperative agreements. This investment produces educational resources ranging from innovative curricular resources to workforce training materials to English-language learning tools. While these materials are created for the public good, they are generally not open to the members of the public who paid for them. At a time when educational opportunity, workforce development, and access to knowledge are critical to America’s future, these valuable publicly funded resources should be openly available to students, teachers, businesses, workers, and the public to use in new and innovative ways.

The availability of publicly funded educational and training materials could address key challenges facing our educational and job training systems. Currently, student outcomes suffer as school districts struggle to provide up-to-date textbooks, and require students to share books and materials. In higher education, where textbook costs are borne directly by students, the rapid rise in prices too often forces students to skip required materials, alter their course of study, or even drop out because it is the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back. This burden is particularly significant for community college students, where textbook costs comprise a larger portion of overall expenses. Ensuring that educational materials that taxpayers have already paid for are available for free could directly expand educational opportunities.

In issuing this statement, this coalition hopes to ensure that educational materials arising from programs funded with billions of taxpayer dollars are freely open to the members of the public that invested in them. The Administration has both an educational and economic imperative to increase access to learning and workforce development opportunities. Further, the Administration has the opportunity to spur innovation through opening access to a wealth of resources that can be improved and built upon.

A PDF of the letter sent to the White House today is available on the ARL website. Additional organizations and individuals can sign the letter at http://www.oerusa.org/.


About ARL

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) is a nonprofit organization of 124 research libraries in the US and Canada. ARL’s mission is to influence the changing environment of scholarly communication and the public policies that affect research libraries and the diverse communities they serve. ARL pursues this mission by advancing the goals of its member research libraries, providing leadership in public and information policy to the scholarly and higher education communities, fostering the exchange of ideas and expertise, facilitating the emergence of new roles for research libraries, and shaping a future environment that leverages its interests with those of allied organizations. ARL is on the web at http://www.arl.org/.

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