Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

More on the Conyers bill

Rick Weiss, Kicking the Doorstop on Open Access, Science Progress, September 22, 2008.
... I also happen to agree with [Allan] Adler, of the [Association of American Publishers], that Congress did not handle this in the most upright fashion. The mandate was handled through the appropriations process rather than through conventional legislation, and hearings could have helped hammer out a more perfect and perhaps more flexible system. But for better or worse, a lot of federal policymaking is accomplished through the appropriations process. Potentially lifesaving research on human embryonic stem cells and other studies on early human development have been stalled for more than a decade in large part because of appropriations language. If Adler wants to reform that Congressional shortcoming, I am all for it. But I would start by going after approps language that is really harming society in a big way, not language that is leaning on scientific publishers to share their material more equitably.

In any case, I have not seen any evidence that any of these journals are at serious risk under the NIH plan. Most subscribers (scientists and academic libraries in particular) are not going to dump their subscriptions just because a fraction of each month’s contents will be available for free on the Web within a year. Indeed, the publishers should perhaps be counting their blessings that legislation proposed by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), which would expand the NIH rules to most other federal agencies that dole out research grants, is as stalled in Congress as the Conyers bill appears to be.

The open access system is in place, on a limited scale. I say, “Let the experiment go on.” It’s a great opportunity to see if it works. And it’s a great inspiration for ink-and-paper publishers to start thinking about more modern ways to continue to profit in the inevitably lucrative business of onpassing new scientific findings.