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Contact Your Representative in Opposition to the Research Works Act

January 8, 2012

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 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.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. January 12, 2012 10:17 pm

    “Research Works Act H.R.3699:
    The Private Publishing Tail Trying To Wag The Public Research Dog, Yet Again”


    The US Research Works Act (H.R.3699): “No Federal agency may adopt, implement, maintain, continue, or otherwise engage in any policy, program, or other activity that — (1) causes, permits, or authorizes network dissemination of any private-sector research work without the prior consent of the publisher of such work; or (2) requires that any actual or prospective author, or the employer of such an actual or prospective author, assent to network dissemination of a private-sector research work.”

    Translation and Comments:

    “If public tax money is used to fund research, that research becomes “private research” once a publisher “adds value” to it by managing the peer review.”

    [Comment: Researchers do the peer review for the publisher for free, just as researchers give their papers to the publisher for free, together with the exclusive right to sell subscriptions to it, on-paper and online, seeking and receiving no fee or royalty in return].

    “Since that public research has thereby been transformed into “private research,” and the publisher’s property, the government that funded it with public tax money should not be allowed to require the funded author to make it accessible for free online for those users who cannot afford subscription access.”

    [Comment: The author’s sole purpose in doing and publishing the research, without seeking any fee or royalties, is so that all potential users can access, use and build upon it, in further research and applications, to the benefit of the public that funded it; this is also the sole purpose for which public tax money is used to fund research.]”

    H.R. 3699 misunderstands the secondary, service role that peer-reviewed research journal publishing plays in US research and development and its (public) funding.

    It is a huge miscalculation to weigh the potential gains or losses from providing or not providing open access to publicly funded research in terms of gains or losses to the publishing industry: Lost or delayed research progress mean losses to the growth and productivity of both basic research and the vast R&D industry in all fields, and hence losses to the US economy as a whole.

    What needs to be done about public access to peer-reviewed scholarly publications resulting from federally funded research?

    The minimum policy is for all US federal funders to mandate (require), as a condition for receiving public funding for research, that: (i) the fundee’s revised, accepted refereed final draft of (ii) all refereed journal articles resulting from the funded research must be (iii) deposited immediately upon acceptance for publication (iv) in the fundee’’s institutional repository, with (v) access to the deposit made free for all (OA) immediately (no OA embargo) wherever possible (over 60% of journals already endorse immediate gratis OA self-archiving), and at the latest after a 6-month embargo on OA.

    It is the above policy that H.R.3699 is attempting to make illegal…

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