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Policy Statement 538 - Publication of Publicly Funded Research

ASCE Policy Statement                                                                                                          538 




Approved by the Engineering Practice Policy Committee on March 22, 2012
Approved by the Infrastructure and Research Policy Committee on March 22, 2012
Approved by the Public Policy Committee on May 4, 2012
Adopted by the Board of Direction on July 20, 2012



The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) endorses the principle of providing public access and enhancing dissemination of federally funded research in ways that advance public health and safety, and strengthen the global quality of life.  At

the same time, ASCE deems it essential to preserve the scholarly value of the peer-reviewed version of record, fixed at its time of presentation without any possibility of historical rewriting; that the original work cannot be altered by the author or anyone else; and that the value of added work by learned societies, acting in accordance with their educational mission, is reimbursed for the investments they make in managing the peer review process, editing, dissemination, publishing, and maintaining an ever-growing archive in perpetuity.

ASCE is concerned that the process to mandate open access to publicly funded research could undermine the abilities of scientific societies to meet their obligations to the U.S. scientific community, to the American public, and to scientists worldwide. 

ASCE believes that open access laws must:


  • Promote the efficient and effective dissemination of federally funded research results;
  • Preserve peer review;
  • Accommodate the economic implications of various public access models;
  • Recognize the impact on the federal budget; and
  • Protect against the potential abuse or misuse of scientific and technical information.



Open access has been the subject of much discussion amongst academics, librarians, university administrators, government officials, commercial publishers, and learned society publishers.  There remains substantial disagreement about the viability of open access, along with much debate and discussion about the economics and methods of funding an open access scholarly communications system.  Supporters believe that any results of federally funded research should be freely available.

A number of scholarly journal publishers, however maintain that the "gatekeeper" role they play, including peer review and the editing and indexing of articles, requires economic resources that are not supplied under an open access model. The cost of paper publication may also make open access to paper copies infeasible.  If the cost is to be borne by taking funds from the research grant, the result will be less money for research.


It is the Society’s objective to advance the science and profession of engineering to enhance the welfare of humanity.  As such, among its many endeavors, ASCE is the world's largest publisher of civil engineering information—producing more than 55,000 pages of technical content each year.  The ASCE Publications Division produces 33 professional journals (available both in print and online editions), conference proceedings, standards, manuals of practice, committee reports, and monographs under the ASCE Press imprint.  Its many other resources for practicing civil engineers include the 170,000-entry Civil Engineering Database, a complete publications catalog, and the ASCE Library, providing online access to over 700,000 pages of journal articles and proceedings papers.  ASCE also publishes Civil Engineering, the official magazine of ASCE, ASCE News, and Geo-Strata.

ASCE, like other engineering and scientific societies, fulfills its role in the advancement of engineering by determining through the peer review process what is worthy of publication.  The “value-added” by peer review is what sets apart top-flight research from mediocre work.  This process weeds out material that is fundamentally flawed or that really does not contribute to the basic understanding of a field.  This process also helps the researchers improve the way they present their results so that the results can be used more effectively by scientists, students, decision makers, and other concerned constituents.


ASCE Policy Statement 538 
First approved in 2012