Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Taxpayer funded research

[alarm klaxon sounding]

To quote a late Republican President, "There they go again..."

This time, another Republican from California (Rep. Darrell Issa) and a Democrat from NY (Rep. Carolyn Maloney) are proposing legislation that, in effect, says that businesses should be able to profit from research that is funded by taxpayers like you and me. Their bill, the Research Works Act (HR 3699), would roll back mandates from agencies like the National Institutes of Health that now require research that it funds to be made freely available to the public withing 12 months of publication.

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a good article on the subject found here. While it is likely that this bill, like other attempts to line the pockets of major academic publishers, will probably get shot down, it is not a redundant exercise to remind people about the importance of public access to federally-funded research. Just when it seems that the idea of public access to research seems to be less of a radical idea than an idea whose time is come (and overdue at that), groups like the American Association of Publishers sign on in support of dreck legislation like this. This groups includes major scientific publishers like Elsevier and other scientific presses, as well as university presses.

However, some scholarly presses are breaking ranks with the AAP over this. MIT Press announced its opposition to the legislation last week, followed by the University of California Press, The Penn State University Press, and the Rockefeller University Press. The MIT Press statement included this: "The AAP's press release on the Research Works Act does not reflect the position of the MIT Press; nor, I imagine, the position of many other scholarly presses whose mission is centrally focused on broad dissemination," Ellen Faran, the press's director, said in a statement circulated on open-access electronic mailing lists and elsewhere. "We will not, however, withdraw from the AAP on this issue as we value the association's work over all and the opportunity to participate as a member of the larger and diverse publishing community."

I applaud their stand, and I hope most sincerely that more publishers will join the effort to promote public access to Federally funded research.

2/27/2012 UPDATE The Research Works Act  has been withdrawn, after the co-sponsors mentioned above declared that they would not seek further action on the bill. After Elsevier withdrew its support for the bill earlier this morning. still complaining about "government mandates" [I guess that they don't consider backing a law that would prevent agencies from having open-access publication requirements for taxpayer-funded work as a "government mandate"?]

Coincidence? I think not...

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