Contact Your Representative in Opposition to the Research Works Act
HR 3699, the Research Works Act, has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives to undo progress made in increasing taxpayer access to research funded by our tax dollars.
Introduced by California’s Darrell Issa and New York’s Carolyn Maloney, the bill would prevent the government from requiring that papers resulting from taxpayer-funded research be deposited online for free access to those taxpayers. In other words, it’s meant to protect the income streams of publishers, even when that income is derived from publishing the results of research studies funded by the government, works that should logically belong in part to the U.S. people who paid for them.
Practically, if passed, this bill would reverse the huge strides made in recent years for taxpayer access to federally funded medical research. A few years ago, it became a requirement that papers reporting results from research funded by the federal National Institutes of Health be deposited online in PubMed Central for free access. Because a huge amount of U.S. medical research is NIH-funded, this has meant that many articles about research affecting the public’s healthcare have become freely available online to that public that paid for it.
This NIH Public Access Policy generously gave publishers a one-year grace period for each article, meaning that any person, library, researcher, or even state and federally-funded institutions needing access to the most current research findings would still have to pay the publisher for access to those articles.
This is apparently not enough of the pie for publishers, who have fought for years against such taxpayer access. The Association of American Publishers is lobbying hard for this restrictive new bill, claiming public access policies are unwarranted interference with the private sector. Not surprisingly, one of Rep. Maloney’s top donors is Reed Elsevier, an AAP member and perhaps the biggest publisher of medical research (with $1.6 billion in profit in 2010) through its Elsevier division.
Find your Representative and her/his contact information and send a message at https://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml. Several societies (such as the American Medical Association and American Nurses Association) and university presses are also members of the AAP – if you’re a member of these organizations or affiliated with a university whose press belongs to the AAP, you might also contact them to express your opposition.
It’s not just scientists who should oppose this legislation – it’s patients, educators, librarians, providers, and caregivers – anyone who believes that when the government funds medical research ultimately for better knowledge about people’s bodies and how to treat them, those people should be able to access that information. Write your Rep today.
Some other useful posts I liked on this topic:
- Elsevier-funded NY Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney Wants to Deny Americans Access to Taxpayer Funded Research – Michael Eisen at It Is Not Junk
- Why Is Open-Internet Champion Darrell Issa Supporting an Attack on Open Science? – Rebecca Rosen at The Atlantic
- Raising the barriers: restricting access to scientific literature will hurt STEM education – Sandra Porter at Discovering Biology in a Digital World at ScienceBlogs
- The Research Works Act: asking the public to pay twice for scientific knowledge – Janet Stemwedel at Scientific American’s Doing Good Science
- Scientists, Fight For Access! – Kevin Zelnio at Scientific American’s EvoEcoLab
- Why does the University of California Press support reactionary legislation opposing public access to scientific research? – Michael Eisen at The Berkeley Blog
- Calling on Publishers to Resign from The Association of American Publishers Re Anti-Open Access Stance, and YHGTBFKM: Ecological Society of America letter regarding #OpenAccess is disturbing – Jonathan Eisen at The Tree of Life
- And for even more, check this roundup from John Dupuis of ScienceBlogs, Around the Web: Some posts on The Research Works Act (Updated!), at Confessions of a Science Librarian