Supporters of the Research Works Act (HR 3699) want you to ignore this post

[See end of this post for a February 28 update.]

You may have seen something called the Research Works Act mentioned in the news lately. This is a new bill that was introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives on December 16th, 2011, by Representatives Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Darrell Issa (R-CA). Read the full text of HR 3699.

The Research Works Act would reverse the National Institutes of Health Public Access Policy requiring that taxpayer-funded research be made freely available online. It would also prevent other federal agencies from imposing similar requirements on their funded researchers. Essentially, if passed, taxpayers would pay twice to see the research they have funded.

From a January 10, 2012, article in the New York Times:

This is the latest salvo in a continuing battle between the publishers of biomedical research journals like Cell, Science and The New England Journal of Medicine, which are seeking to protect a valuable franchise, and researchers, librarians and patient advocacy groups seeking to provide open access to publicly funded research.

The Research Works Act is backed by, among others, the Association of American Publishers (AAP). On December 23, 2011, the AAP published a press release welcoming the introduction of the bill, which it described as “significant legislation that will help reinforce America’s leadership in scholarly and scientific publishing in the public interest and in the critical peer-review system that safeguards the quality of such research.” You can read the entire press release here.

The AAP has been widely criticised for supporting the Research Works Act. Richard Poynder, a respected chronicler of the open access movement, writes in a January 11 blog post that “there have also been calls for AAP members to resign in protest.” While they haven’t resigned, these AAP members have publicly disavowed the bill:

  • MIT Press
  • Pennsylvania State Press
  • Rockefeller University Press
  • University of California Press

More will surely follow.

What can you do about it?

Contact your political representatives. Get started here.

Email or call the Association of American Publishers.

Retain your copyright for everything you publish. As Kevin Smith writes in a January 5 blog post for the Duke University Libraries:

We cannot say it often enough. The intellectual work for scholarly publications is done by academics, not publishers. They own the copyright in those works up until they are asked to transfer it to the publisher as a condition of publication. And if publishers persist in interfering with that copyright ownership and insisting that scholars cannot take advantage of the tremendous opportunities that digital technologies offer, the solution is to stop giving them those copyrights.

February 28 update:

“The two co-sponsors of a controversial bill involving the publication of academic research announced yesterday that they would allow it to lie fallow.” Read more from Slate Magazine:

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