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Free Government Information (FGI) is a place for initiating dialogue and building consensus among the various players (libraries, government agencies, non-profit organizations, researchers, journalists, etc.) who have a stake in the preservation of and perpetual free access to government information. FGI promotes free government information through collaboration, education, advocacy and research.

A Roundup of Recent Government Info News and New Resources

More news and new resources via

1. White House Launches

2. USDA: Consumers to Receive Timely Food Safety Alerts Through New State Twitter Feeds

3. A Law Classification Scheme as Linked Data?

4. Access GAO Reports and Legal Decisions via New App for iOS (Free)

5. National Broadband Map Updated, New Data Added

6. United Nations Releases 2012 E-Government Survey (Full Text), Country Rankings Updated

7. Compare Country Statistics With New United Nations CountryStats iOS App (Free)

8. UNESCO Releases World Atlas of Gender Equality in Education (Full Text, Free)

9. New Online Database from NIH: Genetic Testing Registry, Video Tutorials Available

10. Open Data: DOE Data Explorer Now Searches Individual Datasets

11. Archivist of the United States Appoints New Director of Presidential Libraries

NIH encouraging scientists to write for Wikipedia

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is teaming up with Wikipedia. Jay Walsh, a spokesman for Wikimedia, said, “This is the first time the foundation ever met with folks at the federal government level.”

NIH is encouraging its scientists and science writers to edit and even initiate Wikipedia articles in their fields. This month, it joined with the Wikimedia Foundation, which publishes the cyber encyclopedia, to host “Wikipedia Academy,” a training session on the tools and rules of wiki culture, at NIH headquarters in Bethesda.

Harvard opposes Conyers’ anti-open access bill

We’ve been tracking H.R. 801 – The Fair Copyright in Research Works Act introduced by Rep. John Conyers for the last few months. You may remember that the bill would reverse the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Public Access Policy regarding public access to taxpayer-funded research and make it impossible for other federal agencies to put similar policies into place. Lawrence Lessig has been public about his criticism of the bill and ALA has created a call to action to oppose H.R. 801.

Now Harvard University has released the March 2 letter it sent to its Congressional delegation, in support of the NIH policy and opposing the Conyers bill. Open Access News has reproduced the letter in its entirety:

We write to express our support for the widest possible access by the public and government to research results that have been government funded. Broadening access to government-funded research is in the best interest of the government, the researchers, and the general public. At Harvard, we have ourselves recently undertaken a range of activities to provide free and unfettered access to the scholarly research results of our faculty and students and to the unique collections in our library as part of our mission to disseminate knowledge for the benefit of the public, and continue to work toward openness in our activities.

Recently, Representative Conyers introduced H.R. 801, the “Fair Copyright in Research Works Act”. This legislation would limit access by the public to research that they have funded through government grants. It would overturn the NIH public access policy that guarantees access to NIH-funded research through PubMed Central, and would disallow extension of this policy to other government agencies.

The NIH public access policy has meant that all Americans have access to the important biomedical research results that they have funded through NIH grants. Some 3,000 articles in the life sciences are added to this invaluable public resource each month because of the NIH policy, and one million visitors a month use the site to take advantage of these research papers. The policy respects copyright law and the valuable work of scholarly publishers.

We strongly urge that you oppose H.R. 801. Rather than overturning the NIH policy that Congress mandated in 2007, Congress should broaden the mandate to other agencies, by passing the Federal Research Public Access Act first introduced in 2006. Doing so would increase transparency of government and of the research that it funds, and provide the widest availability of research results to the citizens who funded it.

The letter is signed by Steven E. Hyman, Provost; Robert Darnton, Director of the Harvard University Library; and Stuart M. Shieber, Faculty Director of the Office for Scholarly Communication.

First U.S. Public Access Policy Made Permanent

First U.S. Public Access Policy Made Permanent, Jennifer McLennan, ARL, March 12, 2009.

2009 Consolidated Appropriations Act ensures NIH public access policy will persist

President Obama yesterday signed into law the 2009 Consolidated Appropriations Act, which includes a provision making the National Institutes’ of Health (NIH) Public Access Policy permanent. The NIH Revised Policy on Enhancing Public Access requires eligible NIH-funded researchers to deposit electronic copies of their peer-reviewed manuscripts into the National Library of Medicine’s online archive, PubMed Central (PMC). Full texts of the articles are made publicly available and searchable online in PMC no later than 12 months after publication in a journal….

Or, maybe that should be ‘permanent – for now.’ Alas, John Conyers is still committed to his so-called ‘Fair Copyright in Research Works Act’ (HR 801):

Permanent, for Now: Bill Solidifies NIH Mandate but Legislative Challenge Looms, by Andrew Albanese, Library Journal, 3/12/2009.

Support open access to govt funded research!

A couple of weeks ago, we posted a call to action against H.R. 801: The Fair Copyright in Research Works Act. The bill, re-introduced by Rep. John Conyers, D-MI), would reverse the NIH Public Access Policy regarding public access to taxpayer-funded research and make it impossible for other federal agencies to put similar policies into place.

Now, both the Huffington Post and Laurence Lessig have posted calls to action against H.R. 801 as well. Lessig is especially eloquent about this issue and nails the argument for open access journals. Plus, this Maplight (Money And Politics) report shows contributions received from book, newspaper and periodical publishing interests to H.R.801 sponsors — a small price to pay for the profits those commercial publishers stand to gain right?!

The first important word to emphasize in the last sentence is “publishers.” For unlike the ordinary market for creative work, here, the author isn’t paid for his work through the copyright system. It is the government (indirectly) paying for the research that the author (a scientist) creates. Scientists write articles as part of their job; other scientists peer-review those articles (usually for free); and journals then publish those articles without paying the author anything. Those journals, however, then charge libraries across the world an increasingly high rate to get access to the research in those journals. As the industry has become more concentrated, those rates have skyrocketed — rising much faster than inflation.

The “open access movement” was born to create an alternative to this. Even if restrictive copyright was a necessary evil in the days of dead-tree based publishing, it was still an evil. High costs restrict access. The business model of the scientist is to spread his or her knowledge as widely as possible. Open access journals, such as, for example, those created by the Public Library of Science, have adopted a different publishing model, to guarantee that all all research is freely accessible online (under the freest Creative Commons license) immediately, to anyone around the world. This guarantee of access, however, is not purchased by any compromise in academic standards. There is still a peer-review process. There is still even a paper-based publication.

I hope you’ll agree the H.R. 801 is a disturbing piece of legislation and I reiterate the call to action against H.R.801