Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Bill in Congress would require agency support for OA textbooks

Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL) has introduced LOW COST (Learning Opportunities With Creation of Open Source Textbooks, HR 1464), a bill to "require Federal agencies to collaborate in the development of freely-available open source educational materials in college-level physics, chemistry, and math, and for other purposes."  (Thanks to David Wiley.)

What kind of help would agencies have to provide?  From Section 3:

(a) In General- Not later than 1 year after the date of the enactment of this Act, the head of each agency that expends more than $10,000,000 in a fiscal year on scientific education and outreach shall use at least 2 percent of such funds for the collaboration on the development and implementation of open source materials as an educational outreach effort in accordance with subsection (b).

(b) Requirements- The head of each agency described in subsection (a) shall, under the joint guidance of the Director of the National Science Foundation and the Secretary of Energy, collaborate with the heads of any of the agencies described in such subsection or any federally supported laboratory or university-based research program to develop, implement, and establish procedures for checking the veracity, accuracy, and educational effectiveness of open source materials that--

  1. contain, at minimum, a comprehensive set of textbooks or other educational materials covering topics in college-level physics, chemistry, or math;
  2. are posted on the Federal Open Source Material Website;
  3. are updated prior to each academic year with the latest research and information on the topics covered in the textbooks or other educational materials available on the Federal Open Source Material Website; and
  4. are free of copyright violations.


  • Which is more surprising:  this progressive idea or its sharp contrast with the regressive Conyers bill?  One of these bills could pass and other fail, of course, or both could fail.  But think about the possibility of both passing:  on the one hand, agencies would be required spend 2% or more of their education budgets on OA textbooks, and on the other, the NIH would have to stop requiring OA for medical research already funded by taxpayers, when the extra cost of making it OA costs the agency about 0.01% of its budget ($2-4 million out of $29 billion). 
  • If you're a US citizen and plan to write to your Congressional delegation in support of the Foster bill, please take an extra minute to write in opposition to the Conyers bill as well.