Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Friday, September 12, 2008

Turf politics and the fate of the NIH policy

Andrew Noyes, House Judiciary chairman slams Appropriations panel over jurisdiction, Government Executive, September 12, 2008.  Excerpt:

...On Thursday, Conyers slammed the powerful House Appropriations Committee for not consulting with his panel before pushing through the rule as part of a 2008 funding package.

"We have tried to communicate repeatedly with the leader of that committee ... and what did we get? Nothing," Conyers said at a hearing of the Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property Subcommittee.

He said he viewed the silence as a blow-off by Appropriations Chairman David Obey and said he was frustrated that appropriators ran roughshod over the "sacred jurisdiction" of his committee to act "summarily, unilaterally and probably incorrectly." ...

Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property Subcommittee Chairman Howard Berman, D-Calif., said he saw merits to both sides but did not publicly endorse Conyers' bill...

He and...ranking member Howard Coble, R-N.C., said they needed more time to learn about the issue before taking a position. Berman told CongressDaily after the hearing that further action on the bill would probably be held over until the 111th Congress....


  • There are many backstage forces at work here.  One is publisher lobbying.  But another is turf jealousies among the powerful House committees.
  • Why did the House Appropriations Committee, which shepherded the OA mandate bill through to a vote, not run the language by the House Judiciary Committee?  I can only guess.  Perhaps because the Judiciary Committee only needed to be involved if the bill raised copyright issues, and it didn't raise copyright issues.
  • Who says the NIH bill didn't raise copyright issues?  One person who says so is William Patry, former Copyright Counsel to the House Judiciary Committee and now Senior Copyright Counsel at Google.  See my July 2008 blog post on his remarks.
  • Who knows how strong the Judiciary Committee would have found the publishing lobby's arguments on their own, without the secret sauce of turf rivalries?

Update.  Not only has Berman not endorsed the Conyers bill, but he publicly  opposes it.  See Andrea Gawrylewski in TheScientist (September 12, 2008):

...The new legislation would "turn back the clock" by prohibiting the NIH from mandating public access as a condition of researchers receiving funding, according to an introductory statement [at the hearing] by chairman of the subcommittee considering the issue, Howard Berman, Democratic representative from California....