May 16, 2022

Roundup: Comments/Reaction to Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science and Technology (FIRST) Act Introduced in U.S. Congress

FIRST Markup Hearing: Thursday, March 13, 2014
Subcommittee on Research and Technology (Committee on Science, Space, and Technology)

Live streaming video by Ustream

Text of Proposed Amendments and Markup Memo

Hearing Also Available via THOMAS

On Monday, the Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science and Technology (FIRST) Act (HR 4186) was introduced in the U.S. Congress. The bill was co-sponsored by Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-IN) and Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas).

Read and Track the Bill (via

As of today (Wed. March 12, 2014), we were unable to find a news release or even a tweet about the bills introduction from rom Rep. Buschon.

Rep. Smith did post a news release about the legislation and also blogged most of the same comments on the Texas GOP Vote blog.

What is Not Mentioned in News Release

Smith does not mention in his what this bill would do to public access/open access to research found in Section 303.

Since the bill was introduced  a growing number of organizations (including an academic publisher) have come out with strong comments about why the bill should be opposed.

Here’s a roundup with passages from some of the posts. We will add more as we learn about them.

From Public Library of Science (PLOS): “Why FIRST is a Trojan Horse”

PLOS opposes the public access language set out within a bill introduced to the US House of Representatives on Monday, March 10. Section 303 of H.R. 4186, the Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science and Technology (FIRST) Actwould undercut the ability of federal agencies to effectively implement the widely supported White House Directive on Public Access to the Results of Federally Funded Research and undermine the successful public access program pioneered by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) – recently expanded through the FY14 Omnibus Appropriations Act to include the Departments Labor, Education and Health and Human Services.  Adoption of Section 303 would be a step backward from existing federal policy in the directive, and put the U.S. at a disadvantage among its global competitors.

From SPARC: “FIRST Act introduced with language severely undermining US public access policies”

Specifically, Section 303 would:

Slow the pace of scientific discovery by restricting public access to articles reporting on federally funded research for up to three years after initial publication. This stands in stark contrast to the policies in use around the world, which call for maximum embargo periods of no more than six to 12 months.

Fail to support provisions that allow for shorter embargo periods to publicly funded research results. This provision ignores the potential harm to stakeholders that can accrue through unnecessarily long delays.

Fail to ensure that federal agencies have full text copies of their funded research articles to archive and provide to the public for full use, and for long-term archiving. By condoning a link to an article on a publisher’s website as an acceptable compliance mechanism, this provision puts the long term accessibility and utility of federally funded research articles at serious risk.

Stifle researchers’ ability to share their own research and to access the works of others, slowing progress towards scientific discoveries, medical breakthroughs, treatments, and cures.

Make it harder for U.S. companies – especially small businesses and start-ups – to access cutting-edge research, thereby slowing their ability to innovate, create new products and services, and generate new jobs.

Waste further time and taxpayer dollars by calling for a needless, additional 18-month delay while agencies “develop plans for” policies. This is a duplication of federal agency work that was required by the White House Directive and has, in large part, already been completed.

Impose unnecessary costs on federal agency public access programs by conflating access and preservation policies as applied to articles and data. The legislation does not make clear enough what data must be made accessible, nor adequately articulate the location of where such data would reside, or its terms of use.

This bill is scheduled to be marked up in the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology [on] March 13.

From SAGE (Academic Publisher): “SAGE opposes FIRST Act cuts to social, behavioral, and economic science funding and political interference in the NSF grant-application process”

… SAGE believes that the FIRST Act of 2014 instead impedes the nation’s goals for development, innovation, and competitiveness, and should be opposed by all members of Congress.

Social, behavioral, and economic (SBE) research plays a vital role in helping the American people to understand the complex human phenomena that impact challenges the nation faces in areas such as health, national security, responding to disasters, and technological innovation.

SAGE encourages supporters of SBE research to join the campaign to oppose any version of the FIRST Act that proposes to cut NSF’s SBE Directorate. Members of Congress can be contacted here via the Consortium of Social Science Associations (COSSA) website.

We also encourage supporters to join the debate in support of SBE on Twitter, using the hashtag #VoteNoHR4186.

From the Electronic Frontier Foundation: House Introduces FIRST Act, and It’s Still Awful for Open Access

Markup is on Thursday [March 13, 2014]. Tell your lawmakers that the FIRST Act is not the open access reform we need, and to support FASTR instead.

The bill also still allows federal agencies to link to final copies of articles, rather than archive them themselves. As the publishing industry is in a period of flux right now, this option is far from scalable; archiving the papers, which is what the NIH—which is responsible for $30 billion of the federal research budget—already does, clearly is a more sustainable option. Having a more centralized source for research papers also lends itself better to meta-analysis and downstream work.

From the Association of American Universities

The bill also contains provisions that are duplicative and unnecessary, and others that add federal requirements and cost containment measures that would impede NSF’s ability to perform its mission  effectively. And while the language regarding public access to the results of federally funded research is improved, it remains problematic.

From Creative Commons: “Proposed U.S. law would weaken and postpone public access to publicly funded research”

The White House Directive, NIH Public Access Policy, Omnibus Appropriations Act, and the proposed Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR) all contain similar provisions to ensure public access to publicly funded research after a relatively short embargo (6-12 months). These policies make sure that articles created and published as a result of federal funding are deposited in a repository for access and preservation purposes. In addition, the policies provide for a reasonable process and timeline for agencies to development a plan to comply with the public access requirements.

The FIRST Act would conflict with each of these practices. Instead, if enacted it would permit agencies that must comply with the law to:

Extend embargoes to federally funded research articles to up to 3 years after initial publication, thus drastically increasing the time before the public has free public access to this research. We’ve said before that the public should be granted immediate access to the content of peer-reviewed scholarly publications resulting from federally funded research. Immediate access is the ideal method to optimize the scientific and commercial utility of the information contained in the articles.

Fulfill access requirements by providing a link to a publisher’s site. However, this jeopardizes long-term access and preservation of publicly-funded research in the absence of a requirement that those links be permanently preserved. A better outcome would be to ensure that a copy is deposited in a federally-controlled repository.

Spend up to 18 additional months to develop plans to comply with the conditions of the law, thus further delaying the plans that are already being organized by federal agencies under the White House Directive and Omnibus Appropriations Act.



FIRST Bill Draws Early Opposition (via Science)

Controversial Bill Introduced to Guide U.S. Science Policies (via Science)

Analysis: Agency Budgets in the FIRST Act and America COMPETES (via AAAS)
Includes Several Charts.

Legislation seeks to restrict NSF’s social science programmes (via Nature)

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.