Scientific publishers get a law introduced to end free publication of govt-funded research

Steve sez, "Currently, the National Institutes of Health require NIH-funded research to be published in open-access repositories. In a cop to for-profit science publishers, Congressional Representative John Conyers (D-MI) has re-introduced a bill (HR801) that essentially would negate the NIH policy concerning depositing research in OA repositories. The bill goes further than prohibiting open access requirements, however, as the bill also prohibits government agencies from obtaining a license to publicly distribute, perform, or display such work by, for example, placing it on the Internet, and would repeal the longstanding 'federal purpose' doctrine, under which all federal agencies that fund the creation of a copyrighted work reserve the 'royalty-free, nonexclusive right to reproduce, publish, or otherwise use the work' for any federal purpose. The bill is bad news."

Stand for Open Access, Oppose HR801 (Thanks, Steve!)


  1. You spend half your life in school. You work for some PHB for a decade to publish a half-dozen papers that impact maybe a half of a half-dozen researchers, and then the inside deal you cut with a college-buddy publisher is thwarted by the necessity to publish in the public domain? I mean, give these poor, poor researchers a break! They already are receiving a pay way smaller than their ego, and if we push them, they may get volatile. Lord knows, we wouldn’t want all the PhD’s at the NIH to get incensed because we all know that these upstanding citizens know *so much* about medicine and stuff. Who knows what kind of uni-bomber risk could ensue if we upset these lab-coated and kind hearted folk. Sure, actual open channels of communication could advance biomedical research to the point of actually aiding the populace, but why would we want to help people we might not even know? I’m sorry Mr. Cory, but it is soooo much better for the poor underpaid PhD’s to continue publishing in dark inner circles. The good lord knows what kind of ignorance the light of day would reveal.

  2. @Wynnstate: Fortunately, most of that stuff is safe – it first ended up in the public domain in the 80s when journals got tired of wasting paper on pages and pages of “ACGT”, and required that authors deposit their sequence into a public repository (released PD) as supplementary material to their publication.

    That only applies to some types of data, although the number of types keeps growing (e.g. in recent years, with the creation of the standard microarray data repositories GEO and ArrayExpress has led journals to require that data accompanying papers be deposited there). Anyway, the point is that the data in the NCBI and other repositories is not going to be affected.

    What is going to be affected is free access to the papers themselves, albeit only for NIH-funded scientists.

    Making the papers free in the first place allows students at poorer universities, as well as the general public, to access the knowledge they contain. Mandating that all NIH-funded scientists do so was a huge step forward. Personally I think it should be compulsory for all research outputs to be made freely available, but I think it will be some time before we see that.

    The other angle of course is biomedical text mining, a field which tries to condense the knowledge contained in the literature, and which is hampered by the lack of access to full-text versions of papers on which to build the software. (Currently people working on that have to make do with abstracts.)

    The first law requiring open access was a step forwards, and this could be a step back. They’re small steps, though.

  3. Hmm… of course the articles written by government researchers aren’t covered by aren’t covered by copyright. (they’re works of the US Government) And the data itself isn’t covered by copyright.

  4. “publishers get a law introduced” No, they got a bill introduced. As your grade school teacher told you, it’s not a law until it’s passed and signed.

  5. Microbrain, I’m not sure how you think science works, but scientists do not make their money from publishing companies. They get their money from organizations like the NIH and NSF, usually based on the success of their previous work (which depends upon how often and in which journals they’ve published) and don’t care who has access to their work once it’s in print. PhD’s working in biomedical research are NOT the problem, and neither is the NIH.

    The people with a vested interest in preventing open access to scientific research are the publishing companies themselves, because they rely on individual subscriptions to their journals and, primarily, huge access fees from universities and other institutions, to make a buck.

  6. The papers should be free. They are made with taxpayer’s money, so why should they be available only to people subscribed to journals?

    If OA journals are the only place where NIH sponsored papers can be published, so be it. I am sure there will be a lot of OA who will benefit and the other journals will have to play by the new rules eventually.

    Research payed with your (our) money should not be withheld by copyright maniacs.

  7. Congressional Representative John Conyers (D-MI) should be unseated when he is due for election.
    He is obviously against the interest of the common citizen, as no OA impairs the best use of scientific research and hinders progress.

  8. Some people would like you to pay a fee, every time that you use a wheel, or kindle a fire, or use speech.
    They want to make all things human “economic activities”, so that they can dictate the “most efficient use of resources”, which will include rewards for their wisdom in determining the allocation. Or in determining if new inventions are “useful” enough to be permitted.
    Nothing ever again available for free for anyone…that’s what liberty’s about in 20th C. America.

  9. Ravenword, I appreciate your sentiment – I suppose that the dripping sarcasm in my comment might be a bit intangible. Let me be clear, there is absolutely no drawback to open-access publication. Lack of communication and collaboration in biological research is a serious problem for you and anyone wanting to live a long and healthy life. I am a publishing scientist who, among other stints, worked for the NIH for a span of a decade. Anyone who has worked in this world long enough would immediately start laughing when they read your “science works” phrasing. Science doesn’t work, but yes publishing companies are part of the problem. PhD’s who refuse to collaborate, unnecessarily compete, and sacrifice the oncoming hordes of idealistic lab assistants for their own personal gains are more of the problem, just not the publishing problem. This problem is rooted in the business end of the morass. To get a clear idea of how screwed up it is, just imagine what you have learned recently about how the bureaucracies of the banking systems are set up with tiers of middle managers and a bevy of executives slurping off the top. Science is structured in the same tiered management format. Scientists are people. People play politics. Politics certainly hasn’t cured AIDS, has it?

    Science works!!! :D

  10. Science works!!! :D

    Oddly enough, in its way, so does politics.
    But science has different goals…or does it?

  11. @GuidoDavid

    The *data* are free, but you have to ask. If a researcher is working on the government dollar, you can FOIA them, lab notebooks, data files, etc.

    Usually, the public does not care, and wouldn’t be interested in the raw information, or even the published paper. The folks who WOULD care and be affected by this change in policy are 1) other researchers: grad students who need the details and 2) researcher at small to medium facilities (not large state schools, or small businesses).

    Often, just asking the PI for info will net you a “vanity” reprint of an article anyway.

  12. Between H.R.801 Fair Copyright in Research Works Act and H.R.848 Performance Rights Act it sure looks like Rep. Conyers doesn’t work for any of the people that voted for him, just the people that line his pockets.

    Makes me ashamed to be from the state of Michigan.

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