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Call to Action: Sign White House petition for free access to publicly funded research

Published May 21, 2012, 8:21am


The Challenge | What You Can Do | Background

The Challenge

To get 25,000 signatures in under 30 days on a White House petition calling for President Obama to make taxpayer-funded research articles freely available. 

If we can hit this target - or better yet, blow it out of the water - we can revolutionize students' access to information, increase access to affordable education, and accelerate the pace of science. Each year, we spend $60 billion in government research grants that fund the bulk of published research articles. Yet, even though we paid for the research, our institutions can't get access to the results without paying millions for often-expensive academic journals. Students are limited to what their institutions can afford (and even Harvard can't afford access to all its students need), and institutions with already-stretched budgets are forced to spend millions on subscriptions to rent access to a subset of journals.

With a simple directive, the President could provide students free access to these crucial resources that we paid for in the first place. The Administration has repeatedly shown interest in opening access to publicly funded research, and we strongly believe this petition will be a catalyst for the President to take decisive action.

As the recent negotiations on student loan debt have shown, President Obama cares what students have to say. Your voice matters. Sign the petition and encourage your friends and family to do the same. Together, we can send a signal that will make an education limited by paywalls a thing of the past. 

What You Can Do

1. Sign the petition on the White House website. 

2. Share with your friends, family, and colleagues. If we're going to blow past 25,000 signatures, we need your help. Share our call to action on facebook and twitter (#openaccess), write an op-ed for your campus newspaper, blog about it, email a link to your friends - whatever you can do to spread the word will make a difference.

3. Stay connected. Enter your email address below to receive infrequent updates from the Right to Research Coalition on future calls to action and other significant developments.


Among students, finding what seems to be the perfect article only to realize you don't have access to the full-text is about as common an experience as there is. What you might not realize is that this problem is as unnecessary as it is common.

As taxpayers, we fund the bulk of published research through federal science agencies like the National Institutes of Health; however, even though we’ve paid for the research, we can’t read the resulting articles without paying often-expensive prices for the journals they’re published in.  In 15 academic disciplines, the average journal costs more than $1,000 per year, and some journals can cost as much as $25,000 or more for a single subscription for one year.  It’s common for the largest commercial publishers of academic journals to make profit margins in excess of 35% year in and year out, even though colleges and universities struggle to make ends meet without sacrificing college affordability.

Opening up access to these articles would give all students access to these resources crucial for a complete, up-to-date education - regardless of ability to pay for expensive journal subscriptions.

Through a Presidential directive, President Obama has the power to open all federally funded research immediately, and his administration has shown strong interest in doing so.  Within the first year of his term, the White House issued a Request for Information about the merits of a policy requiring all federally funded research to be made available. Just this winter, the Obama Administration issued another Request for Information asking not if such a policy is a good idea, but rather how to implement it.

This interest means the petition isn't just a shot in the dark. We know the Administration is listening, and we know they are already considering taking action. A strong show of support can catalyze interest into action, turning requests for information into decisive policy.

More information and news can be found at the petition campaign website:


1 comment(s) on this page. Add your own comment below.

Aug 25, 2012 1:11pm [ 1 ]

There may not be a better group to advocate open science than students. The increased access to research works will enable the community to build supplementary material designed to be consumed by laymen. The ultimate textbook killer is a post publication review platform tailored for the public participant.

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