Rep. Doyle Introduces Bill To Provide Public Access To Publicly Funded Research

from the good-for-him dept

We were quite disappointed last month to see that Rep. Darrell Issa — who has done lots of excellent work to encourage more open access to government information — was sponsoring a bill that would close off open access to government funded research. This is an important issue that we’ve been following for years. Government funded research means that taxpayer money funded that research… and yet because of ridiculous policies by gatekeeper journals, the public has almost no access to that information. The whole situation is ridiculous. The journals get free labor: they never pay for articles (and, in some fields, academics actually have to pay the journal to get published), they never pay for the peer review. So they get free content and free editing. Then, as part of getting published, they require the researchers to give the journal their copyrights and usually bar them from using that same research elsewhere. Finally, they then sell these journal subscriptions at insane rates: often tens of thousands of dollars a year for a subscription. Only large university libraries and research institutions will pay those fees. It’s a huge scam and it’s why a ton of academics are boycotting publishing giant Elsevier, (infamous for its fake journal division).

The issue in these bills is that there has been a movement to require any research that is federally funded (taxpayer funded) to be placed in an open access repository one year after it was published. The National Institute of Health (NIH) who funds billions in research every year, has had this policy going for a few years (though journals have even tried nasty tricks, like requiring academics to pay them to “deposit” their own papers into these open repositories). This kind of rule makes plenty of sense: we’re talking about publicly funded research after all. It should be open to the public. Giving the journals a one-year headstart on publishing the papers seems like more than enough for them to make money (again, from the “free” content they get).

Except… the journals hate this because they want their lifetime-plus monopoly on this information (which, I’ll emphasize once again that they do not pay for). So they’ve been pushing various bills that would outlaw such open access requirements. And, somehow, they got Darrell Issa to back the latest version of this bill.

Thankfully, however, Rep. Mike Doyle — who has a long history of being really good on copyright issues — has introduced a counter bill to Issa’s bill (pdf) called the Federal Research Public Access Act of 2012. It really is the mirror image of the Issa bill.

the Federal Government funds basic and applied research with the expectation that new ideas and discoveries that result from the research, if shared and effectively disseminated, will advance science and improve the lives and welfare of people of the United States and around the world; and the Internet makes it possible for this information to be promptly available to every scientist, physician, educator, and citizen at home, in school, or in a library.

The bill would require that all federal agencies establish policies that encourage open and free access to federally funded research. One hopes that Rep. Issa will rethink his position on his bill, and recognize that Doyle’s bill is much more aligned with Issa’s stated goal (and long-shown commitment) to more open access to government information.

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Comments on “Rep. Doyle Introduces Bill To Provide Public Access To Publicly Funded Research”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Awesome. Pass this, then they can get to work on allowing authors to keep at least partial rights to their own work that they’ve provided for free or paid the journals to publish. You’re currently supposed to get permission to reproduce figures from your own paper in your own poster or thesis! (which almost no one bothers to do, but still.)

Lewis Baumstark (profile) says:

A big step in the right direction

I like it, but the exception for conference papers (Sec. 4 (d)(1)) should be struck. While they may not be on par with “journals”, conference papers are published research reports that contain relevant information just like journals. Much research that is published in conference proceedings never even makes it into journals, so this exception means a ton of useful information will be excluded from public view.

TasMot (profile) says:

What exactly is the requirement for publishing them?

OK, color me just purely not understanding, but I thought there was a way to create sections or specialized portions of Wikipedia. Can’t Wikipedia provide a place to “publish” these articles? How about Google? They are trying to scan a bunch of books, why not just start accepting these research papers and making them available online (after they get indexed of course). Imagine the boost that would be, not only are they getting all the knowledge of the past, but also the knowledge of the future. Either location should be a no-brainer. I wish I had the disk space and bandwidth handy. Any body know of a good open source version of Wikepedia like software?

Anonymoose Coward says:

This may seem like a naive question, but what, exactly, kind of added value do the publishers provide to the ecosystem?

If the answer is “zero”, then (this may seem like another naive question) why would any scientist patronize this platform? Is it just a case of, “this is the way it’s done, therefore you have to do it this way, therefore this is the way it’s done…”?

mudlock (profile) says:


Whether or not you’re published, and how well-established the publication is, factors into whether or not you get tenure. So if you want tenure, you publish through these established journals. Once you’ve got tenure, you get to sit on tenure committees, at which point you need some way to judge applicants… so you look at where they got published.

Everyone in the system _knows_ the publishers are no longer necessary, that now it’s just a viscous cycle that needs to be broken. But that takes time. You need something to replace the established publications with. Those things are happening now though; give it time.

Anonymous Coward says:

Mr. Issa’s proposed bill is not the opposite of the one described here. It addresses a different issue. I believe it is much more accurate to say that his bill is structured to prevent federal agencies from interfering with existing contractual relationships, and not to lock-up, so to speak, documents pertaining to federally funded research.

isaac Kotlicky (profile) says:

That reminds me of the article I read this morning.

It was an extended parable on the creation of a “duplicative transporter” which cut out the distributors involved in “packaging” food production.

Locking up knowledge created by and for the public is an attempt to hold back the flood of progress by restricting knowledge.

It will fail because it must. People will continue to share. Culture, Ideas, Innovations, it doesn’t matter. People share because it can and will make the world better.

And those who don’t wish to share will fade into obscurity, their ideas shuddering in the dark corners of their consciousness, hidden from the world out of fear and greed.

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