Richard J. Roberts declared that scientific publishers must "stop trying to rob the public" of free access to taxpayer-funded scientific research ("Protect our access to medical research," op-ed, March 23). But research manuscripts are the foundation of the products developed by scientific publishers, and those products are neither free nor government-funded.
Imposing revenue-free business models on scientific publishing is a bad idea for science and society. New England Biolabs, where Dr. Roberts works, derives some products from government-funded research - and succeeds by not giving its products away.
Most publishers, including small nonprofits run by scientific societies, firmly oppose the deceivingly reasonable-sounding new mandate that National Institutes of Health-funded articles be posted openly on the Web after one year. That practice may be harmless for a weekly journal but can be devastating for a monthly or quarterly.
Is public access a problem? Not with Google indexing copies of articles that authors often post on personal or institutional websites. Is patients' access to medical literature a concern? Most publishers will provide free or modestly priced copies of individual studies. And scientific publishers translate the highest- impact articles into understandable lay-language summaries.
Patricia Schroeder declares that the National Institutes of Health public-access mandate "may be harmless for a weekly journal but can be devastating for a monthly or quarterly" ("An unfair formula," Letters, March 30). We at the Rockefeller University Press have proved that this is not true.
We publish three biomedical journals (two of them monthly and one biweekly), and we have released our content to the public six months after publication since January 2001, but our revenues have grown every year since then.
Many biomedical publishers feel an obligation to give something back to the public that has funded the research they publish, and they release their content after a short period under subscription control.
However, a few large, highly profitable publishers have refused to do this, and have thus forced the NIH into the position of mandating public access.
The Rockefeller University Press is a member of the Association of American Publishers, of which Schroeder is chief executive, but she does not speak for us when it comes to the issue of access to the results of publicly funded research.
We strongly oppose any attempts to overturn or weaken the NIH mandate.
The open access movement:
Putting peer-reviewed scientific and scholarly literature
on the internet. Making it available free of charge and
free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.
Removing the barriers to serious research.