Dave Ng writes, "Tomorrow, the Government of Canada will go through the second reading of Bill C-398. This is essentially important discussion over the fate of a law that would allow a measured approached for the production of life saving generic medicines within Canada. These generics are life saving in the sense that with this law in place, meds that are needed but currently far too costly in developing world economies (due to patent protection) can reach those who dignity, and frankly their lives, are at stake. I've written about this before, but have updated this piece to reflect the current policy situation. I strongly feel all Canadians should read about this Bill. My post starts:
If you agree with the sentiment of the piece, he strongly urges you to sign this quick petition, which in turn is sent to the folks in Parliament who need to hear your voice. Read the rest
On Wednesday, a very important piece of policy will be discussed in parliament. It's called Bill C-398 and it deserves our attention. It seems that it has been challenging for some to see its merits, and so, I'd like to take moment to clarify what it's all about. It turns out that it's not just important -- the narrative is compelling as well: it has a rich history of political intrigue; it is a story where viruses factor in prominently; it has a plot that involves armies of angry grandmothers; and above it all, learning about Bill C-398 can literally save lives.
Here's a worthy petition on the WhiteHouse.Gov site:
Require free access over the Internet to scientific journal articles arising from taxpayer-funded research.
We believe in the power of the Internet to foster innovation, research, and education. Requiring the published results of taxpayer-funded research to be posted on the Internet in human and machine readable form would provide access to patients and caregivers, students and their teachers, researchers, entrepreneurs, and other taxpayers who paid for the research. Expanding access would speed the research process and increase the return on our investment in scientific research.
The highly successful Public Access Policy of the National Institutes of Health proves that this can be done without disrupting the research process, and we urge President Obama to act now to implement open access policies for all federal agencies that fund scientific research.
Winston Hide, is an associate professor of bioinformatics and computational biology at the Harvard School of Public Health. He was also -- until recently -- the associate editor of the prestigious (and expensive!) Elsevier journal Genomics. In a column in The Guardian, he explains why he resigned from Genomics: people are dying because scientists in poor companies can't afford proprietary journals. He will devote his efforts to open access alternatives to Genomics from now on.
My work on biomedical research in developing countries has shown me that lack of access to current publications has a severe impact.
The vast majority of biomedical scientists in Africa attempt to perform globally competitive research without up-to-date access to the wealth of biomedical literature taken for granted at western institutions. In Africa, your university may have subscriptions to only a handful of scientific journals.
In reality, the modus operandi is "please can you send me a pdf". Alternatively some researchers spend part of their research grant to buy a subscription to the journal they need.
The majority of the science in Elsevier's journals is conducted at public expense, or with a large public subsidy. The peer reviewing process is also undertaken by publicly subsidized scientists whom Elsevier does not pay. The institutions that these scientists work for have to pay very large amounts of money in order to receive the journals their work contributes to.
Henry sez, "Harvard Library's Faculty Advisory Council is telling faculty that it's financially 'untenable' for the university to keep on paying extortionate access fees for academic journals. It's suggesting that faculty make their research publicly available, switch to publishing in open access journals and consider resigning from the boards of journals that don't allow open access."
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Harvard’s annual cost for journals from these providers now approaches $3.75M. In 2010, the comparable amount accounted for more than 20% of all periodical subscription costs and just under 10% of all collection costs for everything the Library acquires. Some journals cost as much as $40,000 per year, others in the tens of thousands. Prices for online content from two providers have increased by about 145% over the past six years, which far exceeds not only the consumer price index, but also the higher education and the library price indices. These journals therefore claim an ever-increasing share of our overall collection budget. Even though scholarly output continues to grow and publishing can be expensive, profit margins of 35% and more suggest that the prices we must pay do not solely result from an increasing supply of new articles.
The Library has never received anything close to full reimbursement for these expenditures from overhead collected by the University on grant and research funds.
The Faculty Advisory Council to the Library, representing university faculty in all schools and in consultation with the Harvard Library leadership, reached this conclusion: major periodical subscriptions, especially to electronic journals published by historically key providers, cannot be sustained: continuing these subscriptions on their current footing is financially untenable.
In the Observer, John Naughton unloads both barrels on the "academic publishing racket" in which giant multinational publishers get free, state-subsidized research to publish, use free, state-subsidized labor for peer-review, require assignments of the scholars' copyrights as a condition of publication, then charge astounding sums to the scientists and academics they are "serving" for the right to read the work they're all engaged in producing.
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But it's not just the exorbitant subscriptions that stink; it's the intrinsic absurdity of what's involved in the academic publishing racket. Most publishers, after all, have at least to pay for the content they publish. But not Elsevier, Springer et al. Their content is provided free by researchers, most of whose salaries are paid by you and me.
The peer reviewing that ensures quality in these publications is likewise provided gratis by you and me, because the researchers who do it are paid from public money. (One estimate puts the value of UK unpaid peer reviewing at a staggering £165m.) And then the publishers not only assert copyright claims on the content they have acquired for nothing, but charge publicly funded universities monopoly prices to get access to it.
The most astonishing thing about this is not so much that it goes on, but that people have put up with it for so long. Talk to university librarians about extortionist journal subscriptions and mostly all you will get is a pained shrug. The librarians know it's a racket, but they feel powerless to act because if they refused to pay the monopoly rents then their academics – who, after all, are under the cosh of publish-or-perish mandates – would react furiously (and vituperatively).
On Freedom to Tinker, Andrew Appel has been expertly analyzing the copyright policies of several technical academic journals published by the likes of ACM and the IEEE. The scholars who contribute to these journals are calling for a change in their way of doing business, so that article authors get to retain their copyright. Appel lays out a compelling economic argument for scholars refusing to assign their copyrights to journals. In today's installment, Appel discusses a shift in ACM's publishing policy that ends the practice of authors modifying their contracts to reflect their preferences on terms of publishing; now ACM's office of Copyright and Permissions states that "ACM does not accept copyright Addenda that exceed the liberal rights retained by authors under ACM’s Copyright Policy and the exclusive grant of copyright to ACM as publisher."
Appel points out that in one area of academic publishing, conference proceedings, scholars hold the whip hand. That's because, once papers have been accepted for presentation at a conference, and the program fixed, the authors could collectively refuse to sign the default contract. This would require the publisher to either modify its policy to reflect the wishes of the (unpaid) contributors who make its conferences possible, or to scrap the entire bill and start over reviewing papers, with short time.
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Suppose almost all the authors of the 40 accepted papers were to write the same modification into their copyright contract? The publisher could reject all those papers, but there’s a serious time constraint: the conference volume has to appear, and it has to appear NOW, with a short deadline.
Science publishing giant Elsevier has pulled its support from the Research Works Act, a bill that would have restricted the ability of scientists doing government-funded work to place their papers with open access journals. The action follows a scholarly and scientific boycott of Elsevier, and has led to the collapse of the bill.
I believed from the start that Elsevier would be vulnerable to a boycott threat. The Research Works Act was a desperate bid to eliminate competition arising from the scientists and scholars who supply Elsevier with an endless stream of free work that Elsevier then charges high fees to access, generally charging the institutions whose scientists produced the work to begin with. The question isn't whether Elsevier deserves to make money, or makes too much money: the question (for institutions, scholars and scientists) is whether paying Elsevier is the best way to do science and scholarship. Elsevier isn't a charity, and there's no reason to expect institutions to pay for its journals if they can get better science and scholarship for less through the open access movement.
The increasing trend to open access is fueled by this dynamic, and it's only going to get more pronounced as time goes by. Elsevier is vulnerable, and their overreaching legal proposal just accelerated the pace at which scholars and scientists turned to open access.
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While we continue to oppose government mandates in this area, Elsevier is withdrawing support for the Research Work Act itself. We hope this will address some of the concerns expressed and help create a less heated and more productive climate for our ongoing discussions with research funders.
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.
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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.