What is the Federal Research Public Access Act and why should you care about it?

Every year, the government funnels tens of billions of dollars toward scientific research — research that you help pay for with your taxes. These government-funded investigations give rise to an average of 65,000 peer-reviewed papers a year. Many of these papers, however, remain inaccessible to you unless you happen to subscribe to the journal in which they're published, and some of these journals are pretty expensive.

Think you should be able to access this research free of charge? So do a lot of other people — in fact, legislation was just introduced that could make open-access government-funded science a reality: Wired's David Dobbs gives a good summary of recent events leading up to its introduction:

The open-science revolt, catalyzed just a few weeks ago as a reaction to publisher Elsevier's backing of a clumsy bill introduced to the U.S. .Congress, now has a champion in that Congress, Representative Mike Doyle, a Democrat of Pennsylvania, who has introduced legislation to encourage open access to government-sponsored science.

The legislation in question is a bill entitled the Federal Research Public Access Act or FRPAA. The upshot of the bill is that it would make papers that report on government-funded research publicly available within six months of their publication, regardless of where they were printed (be it Nature, PNAS, etc.), or the research institution that submitted them to be published.

You can read the Federal Research Public Access Act here, and learn more on the FRPAA website, but if you're looking for a good introduction to the idea of open access science in general, I highly recommend checking out this feature, also penned by Dobbs.

The article was actually written back in May of last year, but it explores the concept of free science in greater detail, and provides some context for why the idea — which, for years, has failed to pick up steam outside of small, dissociated segments of the scientific community — finally seems to be gaining some momentum. The piece begins:

Continue reading on Wired, and be sure to check out Dobbs' ongoing coverage on free science and the FRPAA