Friday, January 27, 2012

SOPA's Killer Cousin You've Probably Never Heard About

Abdulrahman El-Sayed has an excellent article in today's Huffington Post in which he strongly criticizes the proposed "Research Works Act" (H.R.3699). El-Sayed argues that this bill, if passed, will be detrimental to the dissemination of important biomedical research results. And the "heaviest burden . . . would fall on the poor and underserved."

. . . . One of the greatest public goods our taxpayers fund is biomedical research.

Compared to all of the direct foreign aid our government disburses and all the flag-waving it does in an effort to improve our image on the global market, freely available NIH-funded research is among the best displays of goodwill we put forth. Consider, for example, a recent conversation I shared in an Alexandria hospital with Dr. Salah, an Egyptian surgeon. When he found out I was American he proclaimed "God bless America for Pubmed" -- the National Library of Medicine's online search engine for health research.

But that may soon come to an end. A recent bill, the "Research Works Act", proposed under pressure from the Association of American Publishers, threatens to strangle access to health research to protect the interests of a few greedy corporations -- it would keep crucial, life-saving information from doctors and scientists who use it to take care of people and contribute to knowledge. . . .

This bill would force taxpayers -- who pay for NIH-funded research in the first place -- to pay publishers for the right to access the science they've paid to have done.

What's worse, the heaviest burden of this insidious bill, if passed, would fall on the poor and underserved.

At home, it would keep crucial medical information from doctors who serve low-income patients and who can't afford the steep subscription costs. In low-income countries abroad, it would choke off doctors and scientists who rely on NIH-funded research to improve the lives and wellbeing of billions of people. . . .

Access to crucial scientific knowledge is at stake. Help kill this bill and save lives by contacting your representatives and expressing your indignation today.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Cracks Form in Anti-Open Access Push

A brief article in The Scientist states that a number of academic publishers are disagreeing with their commercial counterparts over the latters' support of the Association of American Publishers (AAP) which is advocating on behalf of the proposed Research Works Act (H.R.3699). This Act aims to limit drastically public access to federally funded research findings. The academic publishers mentioned are: MIT, the Rockefeller University Press, the University of California Press, and the Pennsylvania State University Press.

Academic publishers are publically disagreeing with their commercial counterparts over their association’s support of a bill being considered in the US Congress that would limit open access to research findings funded with tax payer dollars. . . .

The MIT Press was the first to contravene the association’s position on the legislation. “The AAP’s press release on the Research Works Act does not reflect the position of the MIT Press,” the press’s director Ellen Faran wrote in an email making the rounds in open-access circles last week. “We will not, however, withdraw from the AAP on this issue as we value the association’s work over all and the opportunity to participate as a member of the larger and diverse publishing community.” She added her suspicion that other academic presses felt the same way about the Research Works Act, and it turns out she was right.

The Rockefeller University Press, the University of California Press, and the Pennsylvania State University Press all followed the MIT Press’s lead, releasing their own statements rejecting the association’s stance. Throughout last week, open-access advocate Richard Poynder followed the splits on his blog Open and Shut. . . .

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

"Peers, Review your Actions": OA Advocacy

One of the seven most widely read articles in The Times Higher Education in 2011 is "Peers, Review your Actions" by Michael P. Taylor, University of Bristol. Arguing strongly for universal open access to the results of research, Taylor urges scholars to stop providing their editorial and review work to publishers for free.

. . . . It's a well-rehearsed truth that the government funds research; academics do the work, write the papers and give them to a publisher (often paying the publisher for the privilege); other researchers edit the papers, usually for no fee; other researchers provide peer review gratis; yet somehow the publisher ends up owning the result of the whole process - only to sell copies back to the researchers who did the work and the citizens who funded it.

Everyone knows this system is a historical hangover, but the cycle is hard to break. University libraries have to buy the journals so that their scholars can read them. And because only peer-reviewed articles are respected, scholars feel they have to place their work in the journals in order to advance their careers. . . .

But what's truly mind-boggling is that we also review and edit for these corporations. For free. It's the editorial and review process that gives the crucial stamp of approval to research. But publishers don't provide this: it's one more thing that we give them. We feel obliged to contribute our time, effort and expertise because reviewing is seen as a service to the community. But it's become a service to corporations. . . .

Friday, January 6, 2012

Research Works Act

The Research Works Act is a new bill introduced in Congress on December 16. It attempts to repeal the requirement that NIH funded research be published in the open access PubMed Central -- and to block other agencies from being required to do the same.
Peter Suber has an informative post here -- and the follow-on comments provide even more information.
The American Association of Publishers has a press release supporting the bill.
This is particularly interesting in light of the recent White House request for information on Public Access to Peer-Reviewed Scholarly Publications Resulting From Federally Funded Research.
Boston College Libraries submitted a response to the RFI. Please contact Jane Morris, Scholarly Communication Librarian, if you would like a copy. jane[dot]morris[at]bc[dot]edu