A Bill To Block Open Access To Publicly Funded Research Results?
3rd February 2012
The controversial issue of free accessibility to results of government-funded (i.e. taxpayers-funded) research is becoming the hot topic again. The more or less constant debate of Open Access supporters and commercial publishers is, if the public sponsors scientific research through taxes, shouldn't that same public in return have access to the results?
There has always been a strong publishers' lobby saying no, but the recent events in Washington have even divided a major trade group, the Association of American Publishers.
A bill has been introduced in the American Congress on December 16, the Research Works Act, co-sponsored by Darrell E. Issa, a Californian Republican, and Carolyn B. Maloney, a Democrat of New York. If this bill is passed, it will block open access to federally funded research, and overrule such initiatives as the National Institutes of Health's Public Access Policy. The latter ensures that the public has access to the published results of NIH funded research by making it obligatory for scientists to submit final peer-reviewed manuscripts that arise from NIH funds to PubMed Central within a year from acceptance for publication.
The Research Works Act was given strong support from the Association of American Publishers (AAP), a powerful group including some publishers such as Sage, Elsevier, Stanford University Press, NYU Press, Cambridge University Press. Their argument is that a lot goes on from when the government supplies the funds and research begins, and a lot of it between the commencement of research and the final product - a published paper, is the publishers' credit.
Other members of AAP, however, tend to disagree. MIT Press was the first one to publicly disavow the AAP position, and soon other publishers such as ITHAKA, Penn State University Press, Rockefeller University Press and University of California Press, joined in.
Open Access advocate Peter Suber, has recently announced that he 'will not referee for a publisher belonging to the Association of American Publishers unless it has publicly disavowed the AAP's position on the Research Works Act’, and invited others to do the same. A regularly updated list of institutions opposing the Act can be found here (Notes on the Research Works act)