Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Med student editorial against the Conyers bill

Sujal Parikh and John Prensner, Proposal to impose fees on research articles should be rejected, The Ann Arbor News, December 8, 2008.  An editorial.  Parikh and Prensner are students at the University of Michigan Medical School and members of Universities Allied for Essential Medicines.  Excerpt:

...[T]he Fair Copyright in Research Works Act [HR 6845]...seeks to reverse a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Public Access Policy that requires research articles funded by taxpayer dollars to be made publicly available online within one year of their publication.

Before this policy, the public had to pay for government-sponsored research through taxes, and then paid again when they wanted to obtain an article.... It was a colossal frustration for researchers and an injustice for taxpayers who paid unregulated prices for research they themselves funded....

Since the new NIH policy to require published manuscripts, submissions [to PMC] have increased from 19 percent of all peer-reviewed publications in 2007 to an estimated 56 percent for 2008.

H.R. 6845 would delay this process and make the deposition of these articles more difficult....In addition, arguments by supporters of H.R. 6845 that submissions to the NIH hurt journal subscriptions are suspect. Dr. Elias Zerhouni, director of NIH, has stated that he sees "no evidence that this has been harmful" to publishers....

Should Conyers' bill become law, the research community - and the innovation it spurs - will also be impeded. Knowledge-based economies, such as those driven by scientific inquiry, are fueled by the rapid dissemination of information. Efforts that derail the flow of scientific communication will only hurt the U.S. by delaying the economic benefits of shared knowledge, weakening our ability to pursue further scientific advances, and setting a precedent of protectionism. Ultimately, this will serve to hurt our health care status and economic standing.

In recent weeks, we've seen what can happen when large corporations riding on public money go unregulated. Doing the same thing to medical research is dangerous not only to our wallets, but also to our health care. Rep. Conyers should put the needs of public citizens above those of corporate publishing houses and reject H.R. 6845.

PS:  For background, see my analysis of the bill and the deceptive rhetoric the publishing lobby is using to support it.