Open Access Is the Law in California

Governor Jerry Brown recently signed A.B. 2192, a law requiring that all peer-reviewed, scientific research funded by the state of California be made available to the public no later than one year after publication.

EFF applauds Governor Brown for signing A.B. 2192 and the legislature for unanimously passing it—particularly Assemblymember Mark Stone, who introduced the bill and championed it at every step. To our knowledge, no other state has adopted an open access bill this comprehensive.

As we’ve explained before, it’s a problem when cutting-edge scientific research is available only to people who can afford expensive journal subscriptions and academic databases. It insulates scientific research from a broader field of innovators: if the latest research is only available to people with the most resources, then the next breakthroughs will only come from that group.

A.B. 2192 doesn’t solve that problem entirely, but it does limit it. Under the new law, researchers can still publish their papers in subscription-based journals so long as they upload them to public open access repositories no later than one year after publication.

What Now? Future Wins for Open Access

While legislators were considering passing A.B. 2192, we urged them to consider passing a stronger law making research available to the public on the date of publication. In the fast-moving world of science, a one-year embargo period is simply too long.

The best way to maximize the public benefit of state-funded research is to publish it in an open access journal, so that everyone can read it for free on the day it’s published—ideally under an open license that allows anyone to adapt and republish it.

Opponents of open access sometimes claim that open publishing hurts researchers’ reputations, but increasingly, the exact opposite is true; indeed, some of the most important discoveries of the modern era were published in open access journals. That change in practices has come thanks in no small part to a growing list of foundations requiring their grantees to publish in open access journals. Funders can use their influence to change norms in publishing to benefit the public. With the majority of scientific research in the United States funded by government bodies, lawmakers ought to use their power to push for open access. Ultimately, requiring government grantees to publish in open access journals won’t hurt scientists’ reputations; it will help open access’ reputation.

While A.B. 2192’s passage is good news, Congress has still failed to pass an open access law covering science funded by the federal government. FASTR—the Fair Access to Science and Technology Act (S. 1701, H.R. 3427)—is very similar to the California law. It would require every federal agency that spends more than $100 million on grants for research to adopt an open access policy. The bill gives each agency flexibility to choose a policy suited to the work it funds, as long as research is made available to the general public no later than one year after publication. Like the California law, FASTR isn’t perfect, but it’s a great start. Unfortunately, despite strong support in both political parties, FASTR has floundered in Congressional gridlock for five years.

As we celebrate the win for open access in California, please take a moment to write your members of Congress and urge them to pass FASTR.

Take action

Tell Congress: It’s time to move FASTR

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Author: Elliot Harmon