Soon Everyone Will Be Able to Read NASA-Funded Research

Get ready for a lot more space science

shuttle launch
Bill Ingalls via Wikimedia Commons

When it comes to space, there are few scientific fields that NASA doesn't fund—from looking at the effects that life on the International Space Station has on astronauts' hair to how climate change affects the Earth’s rotation. Now, the space agency is taking steps to ensure that most of the journal articles coming out of those studies will be freely available to the public.

In recent years, scientists from all manner of disciplines have begun pushing to make their work more widely available. Access to scientific research is traditionally limited to those at institutions who have paid for expensive subscriptions to scientific journals. But many researchers have begun publishing their work to preprint servers like Cornell University's arXiv database, allowing anyone in the scientific community and the general public alike to examine the studies. Now, NASA is joining this movement by requiring that all research it funds be uploaded to a free database called “PubSpace” within a year of publication, Victoria Turk reports for Motherboard.

“At NASA, we are celebrating this opportunity to extend access to our extensive portfolio of scientific and technical publications,” NASA Deputy Administrator Dava Newman says in a statement. “Through open access and innovation we invite the global community to join us in exploring Earth, air and space.”

NASA’s move is part of a push by the federal government to make the scientific work it funds more easily available. Other agencies, like the National Institutes of Health (NIH), have already been uploading their funded work to free online databases, Brittany Vincent reports for Engadget.

“Making our research data easier to access will greatly magnify the impact of our research,” NASA Chief Scientist Ellen Stofan says in a statement. “As scientists and engineers, we work by building upon a foundation laid by others.”

Currently, PubSpace is being managed as part of the NIH’s PubMed database as NASA works to make its research more easily accessible. While it will have some exceptions, such as any research that is related to national security, for example, the space agency has already added plenty of published papers to supply science fans with plenty to study, Turk writes.

Federal agencies like NASA and the NIH aren’t the only people pushing to make new research easier to get at. Earlier this month, the American Chemical Society announced that it is working on creating it’s own arXiv-like preprint server to supply the public with access to early results from new studies in chemistry to the public. But while the scientific community is starting to get a little more open, others are trying to blow up the gates.

A few years ago, a Russian researcher named Alexandra Elbakyan created a website called Sci-Hub and released about 48 million journal articles that were previously locked behind subscriptions and paywalls for free. While some scientists have applauded Elbakyan’s move for making scientific research more open, the journal publishers were much less happy with what they saw as digital piracy, Fiona Macdonald reports for ScienceAlert.

While making science more open may be controversial for some, NASA’s move marks a major step forward to making new research easier to access.

Get the latest stories in your inbox every weekday.