Selected Reading on Research Works Act – Why You Should Care?

If you can remember the SOPA strike (that day when Wikipedia went black), then it’s possible that you’ve checked the list of the SOPA supporters. You may have noticed, among others, the American Association of Publishers (AAP) and Elsevier, the Dutch publisher that gained much attention recently from American Open Access Advocates. The advocates ranted and raved about AAP and Elsevier all over the web, only to answer their question whether all publicly funded research should be accessible to the public, or not? If you guessed that all parties answered yes, you are wrong. The Research Works Act was introduced to the White House, it now has a wiki page, and as Michael Eisen puts it, “its text is simple and odious:

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.”

The Research Works Act was introduced by two representatives, Issa and Maloney, to whom, a significant contribution of money from Elsevier was tracked. Another OA advocate, Brembs, suggests that commercial publishers in US, can now follow a simple formula:

  • Buy access to elected representatives
  • Use this access to lobby for protective legislation
  • Pay full-time employees for government lobbying
  • Support SOPA
  • Discredit Open Access by hiring professional ‘pit-bull’ campaigners
  • and finally, lobby against Open Access at the US White House

Please see below selected readings from open access community members that, along with Brembs, frown upon this formula. They ask for funded research to be openly accessible and for the affirmation that no library, no matter how big, is immune to such access crisis, that no business can flourish in an internet era if open access is discredited, that no researcher should remain non judgmental on such assault at those actively involved in the open access movement. As the battle continues, feel free to speak out , or sign the petition  (not limited to US citizens).

For what it’s worth, InTech Open Access publisher hereby proclaims that it strongly opposes the Research Works Act.

Selected Readings on Research Works Act – “In this case rhetoric does matter” (Jennifer Howard)

Entitled the “Research Works Act,” the Issa-sponsored bill, a poorly repackaged version of the failed “Fair Copyright in Research Works Act,” would, if enacted, prohibit all federal agencies from adopting, implementing, maintaining, or continuing any policy or program that provides for the online and public dissemination of commercially published and peer-reviewed research without the publisher’s consent. The effect of the bill would be the termination of the NIH public access policy and the foreclosure upon the idea of broadening the scope of that policy’s application.

Not surprisingly, although disturbingly, the Association of American Publishers (AAP) issued a press release applauding the bill.

The AAP’s statements are factually misleading. The academic entities referenced cannot afford to provide access to the large body of research that is available exclusively through commercial publishers; it is no secret that libraries and other institutions have had to make difficult budgetary decisions about maintaining subscriptions to these publishers’ publications and databases. Further, authors and researchers do not publish in AAP’s members’ journals for monetary gain and often give up all of their own intellectual property rights in exchange for publication. As a result, access by the author’s employing institution and its students is often also bargained away.

A Case of Open and Shut:

Scientists’ idealism is honorable, and genuinely heartfelt. Few other groups of people really do want the change the world in such a positive, progressive manner. Yet, in a twist of irony, few other groups who prize evidence and free thought systematically follow dogmatic traditions that are directly in conflict with their idealistic world view. Why are some of the smartest people in the country allowing publishing companies to fleece them, their institutions and libraries, the federal government and the american taxpayers of their money?

In 2008, the National Institutes of Health recognized the irony and proclaimed that all federally-funded research publications be made openly accessible. They even provide a repository (PubMedCentral) and a gave researchers (and publishing companies) a generous leeway up to 12 months post-publication to accomplish this. The publishing companies still had a year to make money off the research and taxpayers would eventually get to read relevant research results after an arguably reasonable period.

Not satisfied with this compromise, though, the American Association of Publisher’s, has been fighting back and curiously appear to have secured a few members of Congress in their back pocket. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Darrell Issa (R-CA) introduce HR3699, the “Research Works Act“, into Congress just before Christmas.

Scientific American:

But the policy has been quite unpopular with a powerful publishing cartels that are hellbent on denying US taxpayers access to and benefits from research they paid to produce. This industry already makes generous profits charging universities and hospitals for access to the biomedical research journals they publish. But unsatisfied with feeding at the public trough only once (the vast majority of the estimated $10 billion dollar revenue of biomedical publishers already comes from public funds), they are seeking to squeeze cancer patients and high school students for an additional $25 every time they want to read about the latest work of America’s scientists.

Unable to convince the NIH to support their schemes, the powerful publishing lobby group – the Association of American Publishers – has sought Congressional relief. In 2009, the AAP induced Michigan Rep John Conyers to introduce the “Fair Copyright in Research Works Act” which would have ended the NIH Public Access Policy before it even got off the ground. Fortunately, that bill never left committee.

But they are back at it. A new AAP backed bill – the “Research Works Act” – was just introduced by Reps Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Darrell Issa (R-CA).

According to MapLight, which tracks political contributions, Dutch publisher Elsevier and its senior executives made 31 contributions to members of the House in 2011, of which 12 went to Representative Maloney.

It is inexcusable that a simple idea – that no American should be denied access to biomedical research their tax dollars paid to produce – could be scuttled by a greedy publisher who bought access to a member of Congress.

Michael Eisen:

Harvard response to the White House RFI on OA publications:

We endorse the view that every federal agency funding non-classified research should require free online access to the full-text, peer-reviewed results of that research as soon as possible after its publication. There are three powerful reasons to take such a step.  First, taxpayers deserve access to the results of taxpayer-funded research.  It is their right. Second, public access maximizes the visibility and usefulness of this research, which in turn maximizes the return on the public’s enormous investment in that research. Third, public access accelerates research and all the benefits that depend on research, from public health to economic development, manufacturing, and jobs.

Even Harvard University, whose library is the largest academic library in the world, is not immune to the access crisis motivating much of the campaign for public-access policies. In fact, the Harvard library system has had to make a painful series of budget-driven journal cancellations, and we are deciding on a set of further cancellations at this very moment.

There are steps to grow new and existing markets arising from access to cutting-edge research.  The most important step is to require public access (also called open access and free online access) to the final versions of the authors’ manuscripts of peer-reviewed articles arising from publicly funded research.

Businesses need access to cutting-edge research to stimulate innovation, for example to develop new medicines, reduce the size and energy requirements of computer chips, strengthen lightweight composite materials, reduce harmful emissions from fossil fuels, increase the efficiency of solar panels, and make food safer.  Public access to publicly funded research nourishes R&D in these industries, allowing them to develop new products, improve existing products, and create jobs.

A substantial body of research literature establishes the benefits to private sector businesses of publicly funded research.

Public access improves researcher productivity in many ways.  By making published literature more visible and discoverable, public access prevents unintended duplication of effort.  It prevents delays while researchers try to gain access to relevant articles they have discovered but cannot retrieve.  It makes literature available to our hardware and software, not just to ourselves, and supports a fast-growing ecology of computer tools for mining and analyzing data and literature.  It makes literature available to researchers outside the academy, such as those based at hospitals, museums, non-profits organizations, and for-profit manufacturing companies.  By enlarging the audience for research, public access multiplies the chances that prepared users will be able to make use of the research and translate it into clinical treatments or marketable products and services.

Some publishers dislike the NIH policy because they would like to acquire the right that NIH funded authors retain. But not even those publishers believe that the policy infringes any rights that publishers acquire.  If they did, they would go to court.  Instead they have gone to the legislature, and backed the so-called Fair Copyright in Research Works Act (H.R. 6845 in the 110th Congress and H.R. 801 in the 111th Congress), which would amend U.S. copyright law precisely to block the NIH policy and to prevent other federal agencies from following its lead.  This is an acknowledgment that the NIH policy is lawful under current copyright law.

Harvard response:

A bill (H.R. 3699) recently introduced in the U.S. Congress by  Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) aims to undo open access policies at NIH and to prevent the establishment of open access policies in other federal agencies. The large publishers, as represented by The Association of American Publishers, has expressed its love for this innocuously named “Research Works Act.” Open access advocates understand it as another terrible assault on the public interest and as instrument designed to not only mislead those who do not understand how scholarly research and its communication work but to more intensively transfer public resources into private, corporate hands.

Jason Baird Jackson:

The Research Works Act would forbid the N.I.H. to require, as it now does, that its grantees provide copies of the papers they publish in peer-reviewed journals to the library. If the bill passes, to read the results of federally funded research, most Americans would have to buy access to individual articles at a cost of $15 or $30 apiece. In other words, taxpayers who already paid for the research would have to pay again to read the results.

This is the latest salvo in a continuing battle between the publishers of biomedical research journals like Cell, Science and The New England Journal of Medicine, which are seeking to protect a valuable franchise, and researchers, librarians and patient advocacy groups seeking to provide open access to publicly funded research.

The publishers argue that they add value to the finished product, and that requiring them to provide free access to journal articles within a year of publication denies them their fair compensation. After all, they claim, while the research may be publicly funded, the journals are not.

But in fact, the journals receive billions of dollars in subscription payments derived largely from public funds. The value they say they add lies primarily in peer review, the process through which works are assessed for validity and significance before publication. But while the journals manage that process, it is carried out almost entirely by researchers who volunteer their time.

Rather than rolling back public access, Congress should move to enshrine a simple principle in United States law: if taxpayers paid for it, they own it. This is already the case for scientific papers published by researchers at the N.I.H. campus in Bethesda, Md., whose work, as government employees, has been explicitly excluded from copyright protection since 1976. It would be easy to extend this coverage to all works funded by the federal government.

Michael Eisen for New York Times:

The purpose of mandating open access to federally funded research findings is to ensure that the findings are accessible to all their potential users, not just (as in the print era) to those whose institutions can afford subscription access to the journal in which they happened to be published.

A vast new potential for research has been opened up by the Web. It would be a great mistake, economically speaking, if research, researchers, the R&D industry and the US tax-paying public all had to renounce this newfound potential so as to protect and preserve the current revenue streams and M.O. of the publishing industry. That M.O. evolved for the technology and economics of the bygone Gutenberg era of print on paper. H.R.3699 would prevent evolution from continuing, to allow research to reap the full benefit of the PostGutenberg era.

Requiring research to adapt to publishing would amount to the publishing tail wagging the research dog: The peer-reviewed research publishing industry exists as a service industry for research, not vice versa.

Stevan Harnad:,-Yet-Again.html

This, in a repeat of some previous efforts, would block any efforts on the part of U.S. federal agencies to enact open access policies, even to the extent of blocking them from continuing to run the spectacularly successful PubMedCentral. That this comes days before the deadline for a request for information on the development of appropriate and balanced policies that would support access to the published results of U.S. taxpayer-funded research is a calculated political act, an abrogation of any principled stance, and clear signal of a lack of any interest in a productive discussion on how to move scholarly communications forward into a networked future.

Remember that the profits alone of Elsevier and Springer (though I should be cutting Springer a little slack as they’re not on the AAP list – the one on the list is a different Springer) could fund the publication of every paper in the world in PLoS ONE. Remember that the cost of putting a SAGE article on reserve for a decent sized class or of putting a Taylor and Francis monograph on reserve for a more modest sized one at one university is more than it would cost to publish them in most BioMedCentral journals and make them available to all.

Cameron Neylon: Time do Disavow the AAP

Elsevier is one of the companies on gizmodo’s list of companies supporting the Stop Online Piracy Act, arguably the worst proposal to date for the internet, allowing a company to shut down whole services based on a single claim of infringement.

Heather Morrison: Elsevier wants to shut down the free web

The legislation would be toxic for progressive initiatives such as the NIH’s Public Access Policy, which requires scientists to submit final peer-reviewed journal manuscripts that arise from NIH funds to the PubMed Central digital archive. PubMed Central provides free public access to research the public pays for.

Creative Commons

Supporters of public access to the results of publicly funded research need to speak out against this proposed legislation. Contact Congress to express your opposition today, or as soon as possible.

For contact information and details on how to act, see the Alliance for Taxpayer Access Action Center at:

Heather Joseph, SPARC

If you’re in the US, contact your representatives and explain to them why the Research Works Act is a bad idea. No matter where you are based, answer the RFIs of the OSTP to let the White House know how important Open Access is to the entire world. They are looking for answers from “non-Federal stakeholders, including the public, universities, nonprofit and for-profit publishers, libraries, federally funded and non-federally funded research scientists, and other organizations and institutions with a stake in long-term preservation and access to the results of federally funded research.” The numbers count, so even if you have signed any of the collective responses out there, send an individual email again with your answer.

The White House seeks opinion:

Given that commercial publishers have a proven track record of untrustworthiness, price-gouging and political interference, what would keep them from increasing their prices for the services they provide, just as they have increased subscription prices?
No, the evidence is very clear, we need to rid the scholarly communication system from commercial publishers if we want to reduce or at least limit the burden on tax-payers:

Just eliminating profits will cut publishing costs by approx. US$4b annually
1.5 million papers will have to be published anyway, so no jobs will be lost, just transferred
per-publication costs will come down further as scholarly communication becomes completely online.

Any proponent of for-profit scholarly publishing first needs to explain why future commercial publishers’ behavior should dramatically change from current and past behavior, before any other arguments will even be considered.

A Fistful of Dollars:

The battle over public access to federally financed research is heating up again. The basic question is this: When taxpayers help pay for scholarly research, should those taxpayers get to see the results in the form of free access to the resulting journal articles?

Actions in Washington this month highlight how far from settled the question is, even among publishers. A major trade group, the Association of American Publishers, has thrown its weight behind proposed new legislative limits on requiring public access, while several of its members, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s press, have publicly disagreed with that position.

The White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy just closed a period of public comment on public access to what it called “peer-reviewed scholarly publications resulting from federally funded research.” The office hasn’t set a timetable for what happens now, but its next moves could also determine whether federal mandates that govern public access have much of a future.

The debate over mandates is not just administrative and legislative but also rhetorical. In this case, rhetoric does matter. What does “resulting from” federally financed research mean, exactly? Who gets to claim credit for—and control of—research products?

Jennifer Howard: Who Gets to See Published Research:

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1 Response to Selected Reading on Research Works Act – Why You Should Care?

  1. Pingback: The Research Works Act Sucks - BIBLIOTHEKSPOLIZEI | BIBLIOTHEKSPOLIZEI

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