Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Sunday, July 31, 2005

More on the NIH, Wellcome, and RCUK policies

Michael Seringhaus, Open access revisited, The New Criterion, Summer 2005. Excerpt:
Debate continues to rage over an issue originally visited here last summer: free access to taxpayer-funded scientific research. Despite several high-profile policy announcements by government and funding agencies in the United States and Britain during the past year, little change has occurred, and concern continues to simmer....These three new policy statements [from NIH, the Wellcome Trust, and the RCUK] are a double-edged sword: while they encourage debate and spur some marginal progress towards open access, they also imply [to some] that government has adequately and fully addressed the issue of free access to scientific literature. Few supporters of open access would agree. The open-access movement enjoys significant support among scientists, whose main incentive has always been to broaden the impact of their work. Still, any suggestion of free access will necessarily anger profiteering publishers: proponents acknowledge that under most open-access plans, profits will indeed be affected. Society must weigh this potential loss against the greater benefit of broad public access to taxpayer-funded research. Last summer, the Association of American Publishers' Professional/Scholarly Publishing Division called the NIH draft policy a "clear instance of government interference with the interests of free enterprise." An optimistic claim indeed, given that publishers receive their two most valuable assets --publishable material, and the expertise of peer reviewers-- absolutely free of charge before turning around and selling that research back to those who produced it. They have turned this process into an $8 billion industry, which seems a lot like free enterprise interfering with public research.