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White House Demands Quicker Public Access to Education Research

Happy Sequester Day, everybody!

Education research, like most publicly funded research, is likely to take a hit in the across-the-board budget cuts that start to take effect today. But while districts and researchers cut back, President Obama is pushing researchers to get the studies that are funded in the hands of educators faster.

In a memo sent out this week, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy has directed all federal major research agencies, including the Institute of Education Sciences, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, to "make results of federally funded research publicly available free of charge within 12 months after original publication."

Agencies that spend at least $100 million a year on research have six months to develop a plan to make both studies and their underlying data sets available to "read, download, and analyze digitally," as well as making research easier to sift through online. (The What Works Clearinghouse can bear witness to how complex a task that can be.) The 12-month lag is intended to protect the academic journals that now peer-review and publish most education research—often at a hefty price tag for subscribers.

The policy comes in response to a petition with more than 65,000 names that was submitted last spring through the administration's "We the People" initiative. The National Institutes of Health has already been using a similar policy to collect its funded research papers.

However, the policy does not seem to address what becomes of federally funded research that does not end up published in an academic journal. There's a lot of data collected under grants that doesn't lead to published results, but could be useful in future studies. It will be interesting to see whether any of the agencies address this issue in their implementation of the open-access policy.

There are some efforts already under way. In addition to the National Institutes of Health's PubMed site, the National Science Foundation's Science, Engineering, and Innovation database offers public access to abstracts on grant-funded studies.

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