Research Works Act Forces Debate About Access to Research Resulting From Both Public and Private Funding

The US Research Works Act (H.R.3699): “No Federal agency may adopt, implement, maintain, continue, or otherwise engage in any policy, program, or other activity that — (1) causes, permits, or authorizes network dissemination of any private-sector research work without the prior consent of the publisher of such work; or (2) requires that any actual or prospective author, or the employer of such an actual or prospective author, assent to network dissemination of a private-sector research work.”
Translation and Comments:
“If public tax money is used to fund research, that research becomes “private research” once a publisher “adds value” to it by managing the peer review.”
[Comment: Researchers do the peer review for the publisher for free, just as researchers give their papers to the publisher for free, together with the exclusive right to sell subscriptions to it, on-paper and online, seeking and receiving no fee or royalty in return].
“Since that public research has thereby been transformed into “private research,” and the publisher’s property, the government that funded it with public tax money should not be allowed to require the funded author to make it accessible for free online for those users who cannot afford subscription access.”
[Comment: The author’s sole purpose in doing and publishing the research, without seeking any fee or royalties, is so that all potential users can access, use and build upon it, in further research and applications, to the benefit of the public that funded it; this is also the sole purpose for which public tax money is used to fund research.]”
H.R. 3699 misunderstands the secondary, service role that peer-reviewed research journal publishing plays in US research and development and its (public) funding.
It is a huge miscalculation to weigh the potential gains or losses from providing or not providing open access to publicly funded research in terms of gains or losses to the publishing industry: Lost or delayed research progress mean losses to the growth and productivity of both basic research and the vast R&D industry in all fields, and hence losses to the US economy as a whole.
What needs to be done about public access to peer-reviewed scholarly publications resulting from federally funded research?
The minimum policy is for all US federal funders to mandate (require), as a condition for receiving public funding for research, that: (i) the fundee’s revised, accepted refereed final draft of (ii) all refereed journal articles resulting from the funded research must be (iii) deposited immediately upon acceptance for publication (iv) in the fundee’’s institutional repository, with (v) access to the deposit made free for all (OA) immediately (no OA embargo) wherever possible (over 60% of journals already endorse immediate gratis OA self-archiving), and at the latest after a 6-month embargo on OA.
It is the above policy that H.R.3699 is attempting to make illegal…

While SOPA grabs entertainment industry headlines, a new bill introduced in the House of Representatives in December 2011 is creating quite a stir among research scientists.  It’s called the Research Works Act.  The purpose of the bill is “[t]o ensure the continued publication and integrity of peer-reviewed research works by the private sector.”  The dispute is about public access to and control over research works that are funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), but that also involve significant private funding.

Eric Widera describes the negative reaction to the bill by some scientists in his post entitled Copyright and Access to Taxpayer Funded Research, on GeriPal, a Geriatrics and Palliative Care Blog.  Widera indicates that the Research Works Act poses a threat to the NIH public access policy.

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