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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  1. icon
    jjmsan (profile), 9 Feb 2012 @ 3:19pm

    If science is based on open information, I don't see why these publishers get to use publically financed infromation for their own profit. There should alway be one copy filed on a website for public use.

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