This morning, I learned that congress wants to reverse the advances made by NIH and go back to restricting access to scientific publications. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (New York) and Congressman Darrell Issa (California) are co-sponsoring a bill to restore the limits on public access to NIH-funded research.
In an era where the economic benefits of educating students in science are well-known (1), the idea of crippling science education by cutting off access to the primary literature is puzzling. If anything, I would expect congress to support science education by asking the National Science Foundation (NSF) to follow NIH’s lead and require that publications from NSF funded research be made open access, too.
Instead, bill H.R. 3699 will roll back the NIH Public Access Policy and block similar policies at other federal agencies. The effects would be horrific.
Yes, let’s roll back legislation that has made scientific information available to the public – much of it research funded by our tax dollars – so that for-profit publishers can increase their profits.
Who benefits from this law? As I mentioned earlier, the profits of only a couple of these publishers could serve to print every single scholarly paper in an Open Access journal – making the work paid for by our tax dollars to be available to everyone, not just those who can afford to pay.
And who generally pays for access to those journals, who provides the profits they have – mostly University libraries again using our tax dollars to pay for subscriptions.
Today, we pay for the research and we pay to access that work. Yet, there is a model where we can all read about the research we have paid for without having to pay anything more.
So why is the research paid for by our scientists being used to provide profits for publishers who restrict access to this work when the same money could be used to make the work available to us all? And why are legislators proposing bills that hurt the public need while helping only corporations?
Instead of pushing a bill to save the failing business models of their corporate masters, these politicians should be pushing legislation providing better incentives for publishing what is inherently our research in journals that make that work available to us.
But then I guess I do not understand the necessities of political corporatism.