Congress Not Shutting Down Open Access To NIH-Funded Research... Yet

from the but-keep-watching dept

Earlier this year, we wrote about how some research journals so hated the legal requirement that NIH-funded research be published openly in PubMed one year after published in a journal, that they were putting ridiculous hurdles in the way of researchers. The whole thing is actually a bit sickening. The NIH funds nearly $30 billion in research every year, using taxpayer money to pay for basic research, and these journals get free labor (researchers don't get paid by the journal, peer reviewers don't get paid by the journal) and then get paid to take the copyright away from the researcher (yes, the researcher has to hand over the copyright and still pay the journal for the privilege of publishing the content). This is a complete appropriation of taxpayer funded basic research that could be used to derive important advances in medicine and science -- and it's locked up by journals who want to protect an old business model.

So it caught our eye when a bunch of readers started submitting an Ars Technica piece about a bill from John Conyers, called The Fair Copyright in Research Works Act, which would forbid government agencies from making any research grants contingent on the work being published. As the writeup notes, this actually appears to have been more of a turf battle, where the House's subcommittee on IP was annoyed that the whole NIH thing didn't include them in the process. The complaints from publishers is fairly bogus. After all, they're receiving a ton of free benefits from federally funded research, and are whining that they can't come up with a business model and now need the gov't to protect their old business model (which actually stifles the dissemination of knowledge). Passing such a bill would be a horrible precedent, which is why so many folks are up in arms about it (without even getting into the bad unintended consequences).

However, for now, it looks like folks up in arms over this missed the fact that the bill is pretty much dead in the water this year. Right after the hearing last week, it was made clear that nothing is going to happen on it this year, and the bill's own sponsor, Rep. Conyers, seems a bit confused over his own support of the bill (he seems much more interested in the turf war over who has a say in the matter, than in what the bill actually means). That doesn't mean it's not worth paying attention to, as next year it could come back. But, for now, it's not going anywhere.


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