Congress wants to limit open access publishing for the US government's $28B/year subsidized research

A new bill in Congress, H.R. 3699 ("To ensure the continued publication and integrity of peer-reviewed research works by the private sector"), creates a regulation that make it hard-to-impossible to publish open access scholarly journals. These are journals that are paid for directly by researchers, who pay a fee that helps pay for peer review, and are then made available free of charge to all comers. They don't make a profit the way that the incumbent commercial journals do, but they have surpassed many of the old journals for quality and "impact factor" (how often articles are cited in other articles) and are used by scholars and institutions who believe them to be better for contemporary science and scholarship than the 18th-century model of the old commercial journals.

Rather than allowing an open marketplace to decide which model is best, Congress -- including Rep Darrell Issa, who has taken a strong stand for open networks in his opposition to SOPA -- is putting its thumb fist on the scales to support the incumbent closed journals.

All of this makes his support for a new bill, the Research Works Act, incomprehensible. That bill would prohibit all federal agencies from putting any privately published articles into an online database, even -- and this is the kicker -- those articles based on research funded by the public if they have received "any value-added contribution, including peer review or editing" from a private publisher. This is a direct attack on the National Institutes of Health's PubMed Central, the massive free online repository of articles resulting from research funded with NIH dollars. Similar bills have been introduced twice before, in 2008 and 2009, and have failed both times. (Letters from universities and libraries opposing the 2009 bill can be found here.)

Unsurprisingly, the bill is supported by the Association of American Publishers, a trade group that has long had issue with NIH's public-access policy, which requires authors who receive any NIH funding to contribute their work to PubMed Central within 12 months of publication. As Paul Courant, the University of Michigan Librarian wrote of the 2008 iteration of the bill, the AAP's claim that the "Government does not fund peer-reviewed journal articles -- publishers do" is simply "not true."

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