Websearch your CongressCritter and navigate to the email / reply form. Then give him or her an earful (eyeful) about the attempt by Reps Maloney and Issa to discontinue the requirement for public funded science to be made publicly available (by the Omnibus Appropriation passed in Mar 2009).
Please. Put your Critter on alert that this is bad legislation that is bad for taxpayers. Additional detail is after the jump.
Michael Eisen had the call in a blog post
The policy has provided access for physicians and their patients, teachers and their students, policymakers and the public to hundreds of thousands of taxpayer-funded studies that would otherwise have been locked behind expensive publisher paywalls, accessible only to a small fraction of researchers at elite and wealthy universities.
The [NIH Public Access] policy has been popular – especially among disease and patient advocacy groups fighting to empower the people they represent to make wise healthcare decision, and teachers educating the next generation of researchers and caregivers.
But the policy has been quite unpopular with a powerful publishing cartels that are hellbent on denying US taxpayers access to and benefits from research they paid to produce. This industry already makes generous profits charging universities and hospitals for access to the biomedical research journals they publish. But unsatisfied with feeding at the public trough only once (the vast majority of the estimated $10 billion dollar revenue of biomedical publishers already comes from public funds), they are seeking to squeeze cancer patients and high school students for an additional $25 every time they want to read about the latest work of America’s scientists.
and then an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times.
But in fact, the journals receive billions of dollars in subscription payments derived largely from public funds. The value they say they add lies primarily in peer review, the process through which works are assessed for validity and significance before publication. But while the journals manage that process, it is carried out almost entirely by researchers who volunteer their time. Scientists are expected to participate in peer review as part of their employment, and thus the publicly funded salaries most of them draw through universities or research organizations are yet another way in which taxpayers already subsidize the publishing process.
Rather than rolling back public access, Congress should move to enshrine a simple principle in United States law: if taxpayers paid for it, they own it.
I was outraged by Rep Maloney's response to this blogger's request to stop her efforts:
Two-thirds of the access to PubMed central is from non-US users. In effect, current law is giving our overseas scientific competitors in China and elsewhere important information for free. We are already losing scientists due to a reduction in funding for federal research. This policy now sends our value-added research papers overseas at no cost.
This part is stupid, just plain stupid. China and other countries can buy access to the journals. There is no block. And the costs, while not trivial for researchers, Universities and the NIH budget under the present system, are certainly manageable by a sovereign nation. The "cost" return via fees paid to publishers, many of which are not even US based companies (I think? Elsevier is Dutch, Springer German and NPG
English whoops, German again!, amirite? no?) are trivial against the NIH funds expended to generate the research in the first place. So come on. If this is about protectionism, she's going to have to do a LOT better than this Research Works Act.
Rep Maloney continues:
Finally, as people continue to struggle during these difficult economic times, it is important to be mindful of the impact of various industries on job creation and retention. New York State is home to more than 300 publishers that employ more than 12,000 New Yorkers, many of whom live in or around New York City in my district. New York City scientific publishers represent a significant subset of the total, and more than 20 are located in Manhattan, publishing thousands of scientific journals and employing thousands of New Yorkers. This bill saves American jobs. No industry could survive a model whereby they invest private dollars and are then required to give it to the federal government to disseminate the final product for free.
Gak. What about the scientists who have jobs? What about the biotech industries and suppliers? What about these jobs being lost because public funds better devoted to the actual conduct of research are being siphoned off into the publishing industry? Every dollar that goes to prop up for-profit scientific publishing could be better spent on non-profit publishing and have some left over for supporting the actual research as well. The argument is shortsighted.
One can't help but repeat Michael Eisen's observation that of 31 contributions in FY2012 made by people associated with publishing giant Elsevier, 12 of those went to Rep Maloney and 2 went to Rep Issa. If any of you live in districts near Reps Austria, Cobles, Conyers, Cummings, Marino, Price, Rehberg, Roskam, Ryan, Schwartz, Tonko or Turner...you may want to ask them what's up with their Elsevier love.