Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Horns of a Dilemma

The American Association of Publishers came out yesterday in opposition to the latest iteration of the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA) The proposed Act would set a 6-month deadline for the public availability of research funded with federal dollars, and is under consideration for the third time since 2006 now in both the House and the Senate in committee. Is anyone surprised to see our good friends from Elsevier on the list of publishers opposing this?

As much as I am in favor of the free market in most regards, I am bitterly opposed to the idea the AAP seems to be espousing - that the folks who pay for the research conducted with tax dollars should then have to pay again to access the results of the research so that a group of publishing companies can make a profit on that that research by reselling it to us through one of the products produced by their company.

On the other hand, the agencies who make these grants do so knowing that they are funding the creative work of individuals. Most of us support the concept of intellectual property and the notion that those people who use the combination of their knowledge and skill and money - public or private - to produce further knowledge that may result in the development of additional knowledge, products, services, and other benefits to society. In other words, the people who should have some kind of financial stake in the development of the product of their research. In most cases, the people performing the research are being paid to do so, either through the salary for their position or from direct financial support from the grant - so what are THEIR rights?

It's a fair question. How to balance the need to reward creative work, regardless of the source of funding, against the right of the people who fund the research to benefit from that knowledge with as little financial "mark-up" as is fiscally responsible.

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