Hey Joe- What are your thoughts on the proposed Research Works Act that will likely end the NIH’s Public Access Policy? I guess it’s more a politics/policy question but it has major implications for science research
Guys, this is one of those Super-Important Issues That No One Is Paying Attention To™.
You know how publicly-funded research works, essentially:
- You pay taxes to the gub’mint.
- Researchers propose ideas to the gub’mint.
- The gub’mint funds the best ones from a small part of your taxes, and that research gets done.
- Researchers publish their results in peer-reviewed scientific journals.
- Rinse, repeat.
The funny business starts around #4. If you aren’t blessed, like me, to have some huge institution paying for access to those research articles en masse, you can’t read most peer-reviewed research. Just try to go read something in Cell or Science without a membership. That will cost you about $40 a pop.
But many (including me) argue that you’ve already paid for it when you dropped that tax money in #1. If the public is funding the research, then why do you get “double-dipped” when trying to access the final product? In the past several years, there was some effort made to reverse, this, stating that publishers had to provide publicly-funded research for free within a generous 12 months of publishing it. None of that “here’s the abstract” shit, we are talking about the full research articles. And it has been working!
There’s even entire open-access journals like PLoS and BioMedCentral. Lo and behold, the publishing industry has not gone bankrupt thanks to the sum of these efforts.
Of course, that didn’t stop them from getting a piece of really frustrating legislation up for a vote: The Research Works Act. As Kevin Zelnio writes (really superbly, you should go read it) at his SciAm blog:
… the American Association of Publishers, has been fighting back and curiously appear to have secured a few members of Congress in their back pocket. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Darrell Issa (R-CA) introduce HR3699, the “Research Works Act“, into Congress just before Christmas. And it not a tenuous link that Maloney and Issa both received donations from major publishing companies in 2011 and ended year introducing this short, and potentially misleading, bit of text intended “to ensure the continued publication and integrity of peer-reviewed research works by the private sector.”
The problem here being that in the eyes of this bill, anything outside of a gub’mint lab is “private sector”. That means goodbye to open-access research, research that you have already paid for in the form of taxes. This is about accessibility, not availability.
In some strange way, this feels like the record industry’s misguided fight against Napster et al., a colossally misguided attack on a system that could be beneficial for everyone if they just entered the 21st century.
Again, I recommend anyone who performs or cares about public research go read Kevin’s post. As of his writing, no scientists had lodged formal comments regarding the potential law, and the publishing industry was winning by default. No bueno. Get moving.