FOI Daily Dose: Fighting for access to federally funded research, California Public Records Act at stake

EFF fights for access to federally funded research

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is calling all free information advocates to stand against major publishers they say are working to limit access to taxpayer-funded research through a program called CHORUS.

The Association of American Publishers proposed CHORUS (Clearinghouse for the Open Research of the United States) on June 5 as a way to help readers freely access full-text versions of all peer-review articles that report federally funded research.

But the EFF calls the proposal a “deceptive” way for publishers to control access to content and avoid losing profits from their traditional business model, which involves selling research-based articles back to scientists and institutions for a “massive profit.

The publishers coalition hopes to have an initial proof of concept for CHORUS completed by August 30. In the meantime, the EFF is encouraging open access advocates to tell their representatives in Congress to support a different solution called the Fair Access to Science & Technology Research (FASTR) Act. Under FASTR, federally funded researchers must submit copies of the resulting journal articles to funding agencies that make the research freely available within six months, according to EFF.

California Public Records Act at stake

The fate of public records in California is in the hands of Gov. Jerry Brown this week, who is expected to sign Senate Bill 71, allowing local government agencies to sidestep key provisions in California’s Public Records Act, according to Southern California Public Radio KPCC.

According to an 11th hour “trailer bill” to the new state budget, agencies no longer have to explain why they are unable to meet records requests, and if they do meet the requests, they can provide data in the format of their choosing.

The California Department of Finance calls the decision a budget move that could save the state “tens of millions of dollars a year,” according to KPCC.

But in a letter calling for the governor to veto the “relevant portions” of the bill, Peter Scheer, executive director of the First Amendment Coalition, said the legislation will allow local authorities to cut off public access without reason and “ gut key transparency safeguards in California’s most important open-government law.”

Kara Hackett is SPJ’s Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern, a freelance writer and a free press enthusiast. Contact her at khackett@spj.org or on Twitter: @KaraHackett.

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