Hopefully you will have by now heard about the “Research Works Act” (HR 3699) which is attempting to revoke and negate all requirements that research funded by the American taxpayers be accessible to them in publication format. As IU Professor Jason Baird Jackson points out on his blog,  there is pretty obviously major publishing money behind this. (There’s also a nice chart of donations at Michael Eisen’s blog) This is also supported by the American Association of Publishers, which represents a lot of smaller scholarly publishers.

I refer you to Confessions of a Science Librarian for a comprehensive listing of articles that should help to make your head spin if you weren’t quite sure why this is a bad idea.  (Also, I suggest his kick off post addressing Scholarly Societies from yesterday.)

If you’d like to contact the people who are behind this bill, the Alliance for Taxpayer Access provides a nice list of links of people to contact, courtesy of the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition.

Also, speak to your scholarly societies and ask them about their support for this and why they want to make it so it’s even more expensive and difficult for researchers and the public to access information they funded the creation of.

Why do I bring this up on Data Friday? Because that’s the fear I have about data as well and something that we’re already starting to see: data sets created under and paid for by taxpayer dollars that are going to go up behind paywalls where researchers, private citizens, small institutions, students, independent curious people, et al won’t have access to them.  This isn’t a security issue, certainly we’d still need to strip identifying data of patients, etc. It’s about money.

  • This bill will mean that anyone who isn’t affiliated with a really major research institution will lose out immediately. It will impact those at major institutions as well, library budgets everywhere are spread a little too thin at the huge prices the publishers are charging.
  • It takes no more than a moment to think of highly negative impacts this could have on practicing physicians who aren’t teaching, health care professionals in economically disadvantaged urban or rural settings, dentists, etc.
  • I’ve heard at least one rebuttal that “academic centers and public libraries” can access the articles for people. Health care professionals are already often overscheduled–and now they’d like to assume that said professional have to track down where they might have access and add that to the to do list for today–rather than making something available at point of care while the patient is in front of them?  That statement makes a lot of assumptions on what those places have available.  Many academic centers don’t allow unaffiliated people access (often they can’t afford to) and the majority won’t allow the public to request articles they don’t own.  Most public libraries I know don’t begin to have access to the databases and journals that would be most impacted by this and could not step in to do interlibrary loans for all of these materials.

But I said there were three things on my list. Contacting the Reps about this is one of them. I hope you’ll read the articles and make contact to express your opinion about why you oppose HR 3966.

After you do that, I invite you to take the opportunity of an extended deadline from the Office of Science and Technology Policy on the Requests for Information on open access to scholarly communication (public access) and   the management of Digital Data .  That deadline is now 1/12–or next Thursday.  This is an early opportunity in the process to make your voice heard and hopefully get some sanity in the process, or at least working towards something realistic.

Number three is from the National Science Board. They put out a Request for Comments “on the report from the Committee on Strategy and Budget Task Force on Data Policies, Digital Research Data Sharing and Management.”   (The report is available on that link) These comments are due on 1/18.

And yes, all of those are going on my to do list as well.