Government-funded report on government-funded research not accessible to the people who funded it

Photo: U.S. Department of Energy
Photo: U.S. Department of Energy

In 2013, responding to a 2012 We the People petition signed by more than 65,000 people, the Obama Administration worked to expand public access to the results of federally funded research.

In 2016, it touted the progress, stating:

“These efforts to open up the results of Federally-funded research promise to increase the return of Federal investments in scientific research, bolster the reliability of that research, accelerate scientific discovery, stimulate innovation, promote entrepreneurship, and enhance economic growth and job creation.”

In 2019, however, we’re still a long ways away from realizing innovation potential by creating a culture that defaults to immediate, open access of federally-funded research.

Case in point, a recent federally-funded grant that researched the impact of government-funded research on innovation, such as private-sector intellectual property and inventions, is inaccessible to most of the people who funded it.

The report, “Government-funded Research Increasingly Fuels Innovation,” is available for access behind a paywall under the publication’s (Science) Science Journals Default License that states the “Final Published Version will be made publicly accessible to nonsubscribers following a one-year embargo period.”

From the release:

“This research is an effort to detect, in a more nuanced way, the myriad fingerprints that U.S. federal research leaves, directly and indirectly, on innovation by others. We hope that it provides insights for the government, corporations, and citizens about where this funding goes and the downstream impact it has on innovation. And let’s not forget, that does not include the social and economic impact of federally supported research – but that’s for another day.”

The research results, funded by the National Science Foundation (#1536022), also don’t align with NSF’s own recent call for openness, transparency and collaboration.

The irony here is that it’s a government-funded report on the innovation impact of government-funded research, and it’s not open or made available for immediate consumption and collaboration.

While current standards make a one-year embargo acceptable from a policy perspective, if federally-funded research is to have optimal impact, it must be made accessible to everyone at the same time.

This particular research most likely won’t impact global innovation, however, it’s the principle of not opening it immediately that continues to foster arcane thinking of and treatment around information access.

For the taxpayers who funded this research and wish to see it, that’s for another year.

About Luke Fretwell

Luke Fretwell is the founder of GovFresh, co-founder/CEO of ProudCity and co-host of the podcast, The Government We Need. Connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn or email at


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