National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance

Increasing Access to Education Research

by Erin Pollard, ERIC Project Officer

IES funds approximately $237 million of research a year in order to provide practitioners and policymakers with the information they need to improve education. But what good is that research if it sits behind a paywall and the people who need it the most can’t access it? That is the thought behind IES’s Public Access Policy. It requires all of our grantees and contractors to make the full text of any peer reviewed work that we funded freely available through ERIC within a year of publication.

Before the policy was adopted in 2011, the majority of the work funded by the National Center for Education Research and National Center for Special Education Research appeared in peer reviewed journals. These journals are largely subscription based; meaning only those who had access to a library with a subscription could access the articles. Given that journal subscriptions are frequently over $1,000 per journal per year and annual subscriptions for academic databases start at close to $10,000 per year, many smaller schools and districts simply cannot afford to purchase access to high quality research. Their teachers and administrators must rely on freely available resources.

IES wanted to change the model. We believe that because IES-supported research is publicly funded, the results should be publicly available. We have worked with publishers, editors, and grantees to find a way to make our policy mutually beneficial.

We are not alone in this effort. IES is part of a larger federal initiative to make most research findings publicly available. Federal agencies are coordinating to adopt similar policies all across the government to increase the availability of good science and to improve evidence-based decision making.

Since we adopted the policy 5 years ago we have been able to make more than 600 publications freely available in ERIC and will be able to release 250 more in the next year. This is just the beginning. We expect more and more work to become available each year. Because ERIC powers other search engines and academic databases with its metadata, we are disseminating these full text articles widely, wherever users are looking for their research. By giving teachers, administrators and policymakers access to high quality research, we are able to get our work into the hands of the people who can use it to build a brighter future for our Nation’s students.

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