Public Access to Federally-Funded Scientific Research (10-12-06)
Open Access Legislation Garners More External Support
There has been some strong support for open access legislation from
external groups, such as health and patients rights advocates, a spectrum
of organizations that favor open access and universities. This strong
external support has kept policymakers from both chambers looking
for ways to include open access in legislation. Although the House
did not introduce a separate bill on open access like the Senate,
there is language in the House fiscal year 2007 appropriations bill
for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that would require the
NIH Public Access Policy to be mandatory, instead of voluntary and
there is language in a House bill for the reauthorization of NIH that
would require greater oversight of the public access policy to determine
if it is effective. The House has not approved either bill and there
is no such language in the related Senate bills. (10/12/06)
Senators Cornyn and Lieberman Introduce Open Access Legislation
"The goal is to share information, avoid duplication of effort and help spur new ideas which down the road can mean new treatments and cures for researchers, medical professionals and patients," Lieberman said in a press release accompanying the bill. Cornyn added, "This legislation is a common-sense approach to expand the publics access to research it funds. And it will help accelerate scientific innovation and discovery.
Many non-profit science journals published by scientific and professional societies are concerned about how these public-access policies will affect subscriptions. A frequently asked questions document released by Sen. Cornyn's office states:
S. 2695 was referred to the Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, but there are no immediate plans to hold a hearing on the legislation at this point. A copy of Cornyn's press release and additional information on the bill is available at http://cornyn.senate.gov/index.asp?f=record&lid=1&rid=237171. (5/9/06)
The Public Library of Science Starts New Journals
Economists Urge Universities to Evaluate Journal Cost-Effectiveness
Library of Congress to Create Free World Digital Library
Google Announces 3-Month Suspension of Scanning Copyrighted Material
A search on Google Print allows only a limited viewing of each book, however, various publishing organizations and authors have argued that, because the full text is stored, the project could lead to unlawful use of copyrighted text.
In response, Google's new policy states that, "any and all copyright holders - both Google Print partners and non-partners - can tell us which books they would prefer that we not scan if we find them in a library." The three-month suspension of scanning operations gives publishers an opportunity to protect copyrighted materials from the Google project. According to the Washington Post, publishers are still challenging the lawfulness of Google's policy as it places the burden of copyright protection on the publishers themselves. Google maintains that, "the new approach would best balance the rights and needs of users and publishers while remaining consistent with [its] web search policy. (9/1/05)
Letter to Senate Appropriations Urges Reconsideration of NIH Public
The letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee explains that the House bill "prejudges the value of [the NIH] policy," calling on the committee to attach language to the Senate bill requesting that NIH provide information on the costs of carrying out the program, and to evaluate the existing availability of NIH research articles on the internet from other sources. The letter states,
The Senate Appropriations report language, which was released a week later on July 14, 2005, was supportive of the policy but less enthusiastic than the House bill, and did not request that the NIH administer an outreach program. To improve upon the policy, the committee did request that the NIH provide the costs of implementing the program and an assessment of the policy's impact on research availability and the peer review system. The full text is below:
NIH Public Access Policy Unveiled
An AGI Government Affairs Program Special Update was sent to AGI's Member Societies. It can be found online by clicking here. (2/05)
In early 2004, The Washington Post reported that most of the 50,000 to 60,000 research articles published each year as a result of federally funded science ends up in the hands of for-profit publishers that charge $15-50 to view the results of a single study online. In response to such practices, the Public Library of Science (PLoS), a non-profit organization of scientists and physicians, launched a campaign aimed at making the world's scientific and medical literature a public resource. The founders include Harold Varmus, who won a Nobel Prize in 1989 for his work with cancer viruses, headed the National Institutes of Health from 1993 to 1999 and is now president of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York; Patrick O. Brown, a genomics expert at Stanford University School of Medicine and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute; and Michael Eisen, a computation and evolutionary biologist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Unviersity of California at Berkeley. Other supporters include DNA discoverer James Watson and the renowned sociobiologist and author E.O. Wilson. Flush with a $9 million grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, they have hired editors and reviewers and began publishing PLoS Biology in October, 2003. A second journal, PLoS Medicine, was launched in October, 2004.
As reported by AIBS, PLoS Biology "will compete with
prominent publications such as Science, Nature, and
Cell to publish the most significant works of biomedical research.
Unlike these established journals, all works published by PLoS
Biology will be immediately and freely available."
Their experiment takes recent publishing industry developments regarding public access to another level. In the past few years, several journals have widened their access. Most online publications allow free searching and reading of titles and abstracts, and researchers have reprints to give out on request. Many make their journals freely available to scientists in developing countries. Some release results freely to everyone six to twelve months after publication. This interval of time allows the scientific community at large to debate and reproduce studies, a process integral to the advancement of science. But critics say that the delay is unnecessary and would deprive scientists and others of the latest and best information. Ira Mellman, chairman of Yale's Department of Cell Biology and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Cell Biology, explained the budding congressional interest in this topic when he told The Washington Post that, "saying you're for free access is like motherhood and apple pie." But Mellman also cautioned elected officials against leaping into this debate at a tenuous time because the PLoS model is just beginning and cannot yet be called successful. Until this "publishing experiment" is concluded, policymakers should not force any particular model on the entire industry.
That industry is made up of roughly 28,000 different journals and each publishes original research that can be found nowhere else. As a group, they perform the same basic tasks: communicate findings; control quality by peer review; create a historical record and document authorship. Due to mergers in recent years, some commercial mega-publishers have emerged. Due to their monopoly on the information and the marketplace for it, subscription rates have increased by leaps and bounds -- sometimes as much as 25 to 35 percent per year according to Michael Keller, who oversees the libraries at Stanford University. Commercial publishers generally charge between $1,000 and $5,000 for a one-year subscription to their journals. Highly specialized journals in crucial fields can be even more expensive -- The Washington Post reported that the one-year subscription for Brain Research costs $20,000. Publishers have defended themselves by pointing out the real costs associated with publishing a journal -- articles must be peer reviewed, edited and formatted; there are websites and databases to maintain. In short, quality control comes with a price.
PLoS is seeking to change the way the scientific publishing world does business. Instead of having readers pay to read scientific results, scientists who are having their work published would pay $1,500 per article for publication and the dissemination of their research. This cost would be incurred up-front and, ostensibly, rolled into the amount of the grant that was bestowed on the scientist to conduct the research.
Smaller, not-for-profit publishers are eyeing these developments carefully. They are looking for the smallest hint of exodus when PLoS Biology is released in October. They are also annoyed that Congress would try to impose standards on their industry (before the PLoS model is deemed a success or a failure) that would run them out of business. Further consolidation of the industry would likely happen, giving the large publishers even more of a monopoly. This runs contrary to America's trust-busting past and is not good for science, either.
In late July, 2004, the House of Representatives' Committee on Appropriations endorsed open access to material published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which would require that all published articles be archived into an online database called PubMed Central, the digital library maintained by the National Library of Medicine (NLM), within six months of publication. This endorsment flows from the idea that research funded through the public sector, which encompasses all public universities and research institutions, should be available to the public free of charge. This model, which is already established in the U.K. under the name of BioMed Central, will also soon be the policy of Germany's Max Planck Society. In November, Congress addressed the NIH open access model in the Consolidated Appropriations Act for FY 2005 (H.R. 4818), directing NIH to provide the estimated costs of implementing their open access policy in its annual Justification of Estimates to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees and "to continue to work with the publishers of scientific journals to maintain the integrity of the peer review system."
In November, 2004, the British government rejected most of the recommendations
by a parliamentary committee that favored making the results of state-supported
scientific research freely available, denying that there were major
problems in accessing scientific information, and asserting that the
publishing industry is both "healthy and competitive." While
some lawmakers accused the government of bowing to pressure from commercial
publishers, others called it "a clear statement of support for
the current market and the current system, which confirms that the
publishing market is competitive and innovative." Britain is
responsible for 5.3 percent of all articles published in scientific,
technological, and medical journals around the world, and a governmental
commitment to open access would constitute a major victory for the
movement's backers. But, even without official endorsement from the
government, the councils that disburse public funds for research may
elect to follow the parliamentary committee's suggestions. The research
councils are in the process of reviewing their strategy and are expected
to issue a plan in January, 2004.
Sources: Public Library of Science; The Washington Post; The American Institute of Biological Sciences; The Economist; The Chronicle; Press Release for Senator Cornyn; Press Release for Senator Lieberman
Contributed by Linda Rowan, Director of Government Affairs; Emily Lehr Wallace, Government Affairs Staff; Margaret Anne Baker, Government Affairs Staff; Katie Ackerly, AGI/AAPG 2005 Spring Semester Intern; and Jenny Fisher, 2006 AGI/AAPG Spring Intern.
Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI Government Affairs Program.
Last revised on October 12, 2006