Saturday, September 20, 2008

Open Access (by Phila)

As taxpayers, we routinely fund scientific research, so it's logical and fair that we should have free access to that research. That's why a bill was passed in 2007 that required all NIH-funded research to be made available to the public within 12 months of publication.

Now, John Conyers (D-MI), Darrell Issa (R-CA), Robert Wexler (D-FL), and Tom Feeney (R-FL) are co-sponsoring a bill called the Fair Copyright in Research Works Act (HR6845). Like most legislation with a feel-good adjective in the title, it amounts to a fairly brutal assault on the public's rights. Far from being "fair," the FCRWA would not only reverse the current NIH policy, but also prevent other agencies from adopting similar ones.

The Alliance for Taxpayer Access explains why this is a dangerous idea, as well as an unethical one:
Because of the NIH Public Access Policy, millions of Americans now have access to vital health care information from the NIH’s PubMed Central database. Under the current policy, nearly 4,000 new crucial biomedical articles were deposited in the last month alone. This proposed bill would prohibit the deposit of these articles, and as a result, researchers, physicians, health care professionals, families and individuals will find it much harder to get access to this critical health-related information.
Over at Effect Measure, Revere adds a personal note:
I am one of those NIH supported researchers whose papers get locked up for decades behind copyright permission firewalls. I want you to have access to my research. I want the journals I publish in to be required to make it available to you after a reasonable time period (the shorter the better) as the NIH policy now does. It helps me professionally by making my work more widely disseminated. It helps me as a professional by making it possible to get access to scientific research, now inaccessible because of the predatory and outrageous charges of the large scientific publishers, the same people behind the Conyers legislation.
At a time when the federal government is demanding "virtually unfettered authority" to accomplish a staggering redistribution of wealth, the garden-variety cupidity of the FCRWA seems almost quaint. But it springs from the same contempt for democracy, and calls for the same sort of public outrage. You have until September 24th to urge Congress to scuttle this bill; the ATA has a draft letter, and a list of congressional contacts. Please take a few minutes to make your feelings known.