Publishers fight open access law for federal research

Bill would mandate free online publishing of federally funded research within six months of publication in journals.
Written by ZDNET Editors, Contributor

Universities are supposed to be on the leading edge of movements to push open source and open access to infomation, right?

A Senate bill would require research funded with federal dollars to be published for free online, within six months of publication elsewhere. But universities and scholarly publishers are seeing red over the proposal, eSchoolNews reports.

Universities support the bill, even though it threatens to cut into their intellectual property income streams. Publishers are a different matter.

Brian D. Crawford, chairman of the Professional and Scholarly Publishing Division of the American Association of Publishers, sent a letter to Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, the chair of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, protesting the proposed bill. Undersigned by more than 70 scholarly and publishing organizations, the letter claims the bill "would require the affected federal agencies to develop and maintain costly electronic repositories. To do so, agencies will need to divert millions of dollars away from federal research grants and towards the databases' costs."

"Full public access to scientific articles based on government funding has always been central to our mission," said Crawford, who also is a senior vice president of the American Chemical Society. "Competition demands it, and timely access to high-quality, peer-reviewed journals is fundamental to the scientific process."

On the other hand, advocates of the measure say publishers' high prices are making access to the latest research unavailable to libraries and some schools.

"Ease of access and discovery also encourages use by scholars outside traditional disciplinary communities, thus encouraging imaginative and productive scholarly convergence," [provosts of more than 20 universities wrote the committee].

"We believe that this legislation represents a watershed [moment] and provides an opportunity for the entire U.S. higher-education and research community to draw upon their traditional partnerships and collaboratively realize the unquestionably good intentions of the bill's framers--broadening access to publicly funded research in order to accelerate the advancement of knowledge and maximize the related public good," the letter says.

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