DOE Joins the CHORUS
By Michael Lucibella
August 19, 2014
After more than a year of consideration, the Department of Energy announced its plan to allow the public to freely read academic journal articles by researchers supported by federal funding.
On August 4, the department unveiled a beta version of its new Public Access Gateway for Energy and Science website, or PAGES, an online hub that directs users to publishers' websites to obtain archived articles. According to the new policy, journal articles about research that uses federal funds has to be free for the public to access after a year-long embargo.
The policy responds to a directive issued in February of last year by the Obama administration's Office of Science and Technology Policy. The White House is requiring federal agencies to come up with a plan to open up the results of research conducted with federal funds.
Following the directive, publishers and open access advocates began working with the Department of Energy to come up with a workable policy.
"We used that memo as a sort of guide book if you will of the elements that our public access plan should contain," said Brian Hitson, the associate director of administration and information services at the Department of Energy's Office of Scientific and Technical Information. "[The policy] took into account the diverse views of the stakeholders."
Anyone interested in reading an article can access it through a portal on the PAGES website. The accessed articles are not stored on government servers, but rather the publisher's, so the PAGES website acts as a switchboard to direct the reader to the publisher's website. Prior to this policy, readers had to pay for access to these journal articles, though policies varied by publisher.
The Clearinghouse for the Open Research of the United States, or CHORUS (of which the APS is a member) is a group of publishers working with the department to develop a policy that would be acceptable to CHORUS members concerned about their copyright and sustainable business models. In addition they provided a significant portion of the information infrastructure to identify funding agencies and redirect users from the PAGES website to the archived articles.
"I think it is generally a very good response to the OSTP mandate," said Joseph Serene, Treasurer/Publisher of APS and board member of CHORUS. "I honestly don't see any major shortcomings of the policy."
Response from open access activists has been more mixed.
"The idea that articles are made accessible is one thing, and I think the DoE's plan does this. But making sure that the articles are usable by the public is another thing, and we don't think the DoE's plan does that," said Heather Joseph, director of the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, or SPARC, an organization advocating for more open access. She added that they would have preferred to see options for bulk downloading, text analysis, and rights to access manuscripts from institution's servers.
The Department of Energy was the first of 21 science-funding agencies to launch a public-access system. It was first out of the gate because over the years they've built archives and access portals for storing numerous internal documents and reports, and expanded on several of their existing systems and expertise.
Each federal agency is free to develop their own policy for open access, but in leading the way DOE's system is likely to serve as a model for others.