RWA Left In Tatters

29 February 2012

The controversial Research Works Act would at last appear to have been consigned to the history books.

And about time too. The act, that would have halted the trend towards increased public access to the results of government funded research, was first tabled in the US Congress towards the end of 2011 and has since become what has been almost universally condemned as 'odious'.

Leading the charge from the pro-act camp was Elsevier. But under pressure from a wave of public criticism that showed no sign of abating, the world's largest STM publisher finally succumbed and withdrew its support of the act. Soon after, the very two US Congress representatives who were responsible for introducing the act in the first place, also followed suit; thereby, effectively sealing it's fate.

But the question now remains: Can, or will, the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA) - which was introduced to the White House on February 9th to guarantee the free availability of publicly-funded research – be given a chance?

The answer to the first part is a resounding 'yes' – it can do what is effectively the complete opposite to what the RWA was tabling. However, the answer to the second part of this question – the 'will' it be given a chance – appears to be in the balance. Yet we all have the opportunity to try and tip the scales in favor of it's implementation.

Remaining benevolently neutral and avoiding becoming entwined with certain calls for action in support or opposition to a specific proposed piece of legislation is often a sensitive issue and one that many publishing houses will tend to avoid. But sometimes it is necessary and in the case of the FRPAA, we need to ensure that access to all research – whether publicly or privately funded – remains open.

The White House has an online petition that supporters of the FRPAA can e-sign – irrespective of whether a US-citizen or not.