Capitol Hill Adventures

Barbara Epstein and Senator Casey
Barbara Epstein and Senator Casey

I have been a member of the Joint Legislative Task Force of the Medical Library Association and the Association of Academic Health Sciences Libraries for five years. We visit Capitol Hill every spring to meet with staff of our senators and congressional representatives to advocate for NIH funding and research support, and specifically for the National Library of Medicine, an institute of the NIH. This year’s visit was especially productive, as my colleagues and I were invited to attend Senator Casey’s monthly Keystone Coffee breakfast, to speak with the Senator directly. It was fun to roam the halls of the Capitol and the congressional office buildings as lobbyist-for-a-day.

The Task Force members also urge support for public access to taxpayer-funded research, through the Fair Access to Sciences and Technology Research Act (FASTR), H.R. 708 and S. 350. This is of great importance to the library and research communities, and our Congressman Mike Doyle is a key sponsor of this bipartisan bill. This legislation builds on the successful implementation of the NIH Public Access Policy. It will require all federal agencies with annual extramural research expenditures of over $100 million per year to develop policies that provide public access to peer-reviewed journal articles resulting from agency-funded research. Such papers will be deposited in repositories operated by, or on behalf of, the federal agencies. MLA and AAHSL believe that FASTR will enable researchers to realize new discoveries more quickly, accelerate the exchange of information among the research community, and enhance the affordability and distribution of scientific and scholarly research.

FASTR has both Democratic and Republican sponsors, because the idea of greater transparency in government, and promoting the results of taxpayer-funded research has bipartisan appeal. It is also attractive to fiscal conservatives in both parties, as it is “revenue neutral,” e.g., no additional appropriations are requested. For more information about FASTR, see

~Barbara Epstein, HSLS Director