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Achieving Public Access: The Department of Energy Launches DOE PAGES(Beta)
by Dr. Jeffrey Salmon on Mon, 4 Aug, 2014

Click here (www.osti.gov/pages/) to view the future of public access to scientific publications.

As of August 4, 2014, and for the first time ever, the Department of Energy (DOE) will provide a portal (see above) allowing anyone to read, download, and analyze in digital form final peer-reviewed manuscripts or final published articles of work sponsored by the Department.  You can read the entire DOE public access plan here.

DOE conducts more than $10 billion a year in R&D, and the Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI) helps ensure a return on those investments by making DOE-sponsored R&D results available in web-based searchable databases.  These DOE databases include electronic full-text research reports; energy citations going back to the Manhattan Project era; e-prints (journal article pre-publication drafts, scholarly papers, and more); DOE R&D accomplishments; and DOE patents.

Despite the breadth of these collections, they generally do not include what is considered the “gold standard” of scientific communication -- peer-reviewed journal articles or final accepted manuscripts resulting from agency funding.   To date, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is the only federal science agency that has offered broad public access to scientific publications resulting from its funding (as required by a law enacted in 2008).

But now, that’s all changed with DOE PAGESBeta (Public Access Gateway for Energy and Science).  And this is a very significant change.  After a twelve-month embargo period, readers will have access to journal articles (the Version of Record) or accepted manuscripts resulting from DOE research funding.  Historically, most of this collection of DOE-affiliated articles -- we estimate over 20,000 per year -- has been available only through subscription, which can run hundreds or thousands or tens of thousands of dollars a year, or through purchase of a single article.  These articles,once behind a perpetual paywall, will now be freely available to the public, after this twelve-month interval.

Our goal is simple:  The public will have access to the best available version of a scholarly publication resulting from the research sponsored by its tax dollars.  We believe that the best version of an article is that living on a publisher’s website.  So, DOE PAGESBeta will link from its homepage metadata to the full-text Version of Record hosted by the publisher’s website when the article is available and easily accessible without charge.  Where that is not the case, DOE PAGESBeta will link the reader to a full-text version of the accepted manuscript twelve months from the article publication date, which will primarily reside on DOE Lab and grantee institutional repositories.  It is this combination of using DOE’s existing scientific and technical information network (discussed in more detail below) and complementing that with public access offerings of publishers that will help us achieve our goal of “best available version.”

DOE has worked closely for years with the publishing community and with library repositories and other stakeholders to achieve public access.  For example, we are working with representatives of the research libraries and their consortium SHARE -- the Shared Access Research Ecosystem -- which will be a key player in the expanding effort to provide public access to scientific literature.  Additionally, we are collaborating with the publisher’s consortium called CHORUS, the Clearinghouse for the Open Research of the United States, which we expect to ease access to publications.  We are pleased to work with SHARE, CHORUS, other agencies, and stakeholders to achieve greater openness for scientific publications. 

We have gotten as far as we have with public access because the White House and Congress have made transparency a priority.  Dr. John P. Holdren, the Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) issued a memo in February 2013 that required agencies like DOE that have a substantial R&D budget to create public access plans that meet broad principles and clear requirements. Indeed, the Administration and Congress were together supportive of the idea that agencies should develop explicit plans and policies to promote public access to scientific literature and digital data.  The America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 included a provision that called on the Director of OSTP to “… coordinate Federal science agency research and policies related to the dissemination and long-term stewardship of the results of unclassified research, including digital data and peer-reviewed scholarly publications, supported wholly, or in part, by funding the Federal science agencies.”

OSTP leadership since it issued its February 2013 memo has been a powerful force in bringing agencies and stakeholders together to resolve key issues.  

DOE PAGESBeta is consistent with the objectives of the OSTP memo.  It will:

  • Enable long-term free access by the public to peer-reviewed scientific and technical information sponsored by DOE.
  • Enable single search of all DOE-sponsored research literature without requiring that articles be in a centralized collection.
  • Maintain a comprehensive metadata collection in order for the agency to fully account for its scholarly output.
  • Preserve the freedom of researchers to promote and disseminate their research, i.e., preserves researchers’ choice in selecting the journal to which they wish to submit manuscripts.
  • Recognize the value added by publishers in providing high-quality scholarly communications and research tools and accommodates flexible publisher business models.
  • Promote the single version of record for each article.
  • Minimize cost to DOE by utilizing corporate systems and existing STI policy.
  • Encourage coordination and collaboration among agencies.

It is worth pointing out that, at a time when many people appear to have lost confidence in government’s ability to get things done and to work together, public access is an example of a difficult problem that all sides -- Congress, the White House, agencies, publishers, the library community, open access advocates -- no matter their differences, joined together to help resolve.

Not everyone agrees with a twelve month embargo period.  Some regard it as too long, others as too short.  Our engagement with the interested parties included discussions on how best to address the embargo question.  Encouraging customer feedback and our commitment to listen to our customers has been and will continue to be a core principle for us and is stressed in Director Holdren’s memo.  DOE PAGESBeta includes a simple way for visitors to provide comments on any issue, including how the embargo period impacts various business models.  We will take those comments seriously.  And we will also work with our interagency counterparts to promote consistent embargo periods within scientific fields.

Let’s take a brief look at DOE PAGESBeta  in somewhat more detail.  DOE PAGESBeta is an innovative and economical solution for public access because it takes advantage of existing DOE tools and infrastructure, such as the E-Link metadata submission system and the network of STI managers and technical information officers in DOE program, site, and procurement offices and at national laboratories – known collectively as the Scientific and Technical Information Program (STIP).  Each year, approximately 30,000 metadata records, along with full-text links, are electronically submitted by the STIP community to OSTI’s ingest tool E-Link.

Working with the DOE STIP community, development of DOE PAGESBeta involves adapting this existing infrastructure to accommodate submission of accepted manuscript metadata and full-text links.  It will also involve adapting E-Link to accommodate submission of metadata and article links (called digital object identifiers, or DOIs) from participating publishers.  In other words, DOE PAGESBeta is primarily a matter of adapting and scaling existing infrastructure and tools, not developing a new system from scratch.

Because it has kept up with changing technology, because it has for decades sought out and worked with stakeholders, especially the publishing community, because it was fundamentally dedicated to public access, OSTI was ready to execute DOE PAGESBeta through an evolution, not a revolution.  For this, the folks at OSTI deserve great credit.

A final, but very important note of caution.  DOE PAGESBeta is in a test phase.  The going in content of DOE PAGESBeta is now slim, about 6,500 articles and accepted manuscripts. Our own testing has been intense, but our customers will no doubt find flaws, or identify things that could work better.  That is precisely why we call it DOE PAGESBeta and not just DOE PAGES.  And that’s precisely why we want our customers to test drive DOE PAGESBeta  and continue to test drive it so we can make improvements.  Once we start capturing publications, we expect DOE PAGESBeta will grow by 20,000-30,000 articles a year.

Director Holdren’s memo notes that “[s]cientific research supported by the federal government catalyzes innovative breakthroughs that drive our economy.  The results of that research become the grist for new insights and are assets for progress in areas such as health, energy, the environment, agriculture, and national security.”  We agree, and we intend for DOE PAGESBeta to be one of the catalysts for these breakthroughs.

 

Dr. Jeffrey Salmon is Deputy Director for Resource Management in the Department of Energy Office of Science.

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Dr. Jeffrey Salmon's picture
Dr. Jeffrey Salmon
Deputy Director for Resource Management, U.S. DOE Office of Science