For the last several years, research funded by the National Institutes of Health has been subject to its public access policy, which ensures that resulting research publications are made open access within a year of their publication. For almost as long, some members of Congress have been trying to overturn that policy, which some publishers fear will cut into their revenues. The latest attempt, the Research Works Act, was introduced in January, and would allow any publisher to keep papers in its journals from being made open access.
Today, some members of Congress have introduced a bill that would not only support the NIH policy, but expand it. The Federal Research Public Access Act is being introduced in both the House and Senate, with a bipartisan group of sponsors in each body. The act would significantly shorten the waiting period between publication in a subscription journal and the point where a paper is made open access, dropping it from a year to six months. It would also expand the scope of the policy, applying it to any federal agency with a budget of $100 million or more.
We are about to see a classic struggle between two different world views – one created in a world of information scarcity where acting as the gatekeeper permitted a billion dollar industry to grow and one created in a world of information surplus where the very idea of a paid gatekeeper is anathema.
The corporations and lobbyists will be one one side, trying to hold onto their old models and force research paid for by taxpayers to be hidden behind paywals (Papers I published 25 years ago are cost upwards of $30 to see. Crazy.)
But researchers are better served by the second approach. They want as many people as possible to see their work. They receive acclaim, reputation and tenure based on their work.
In the old days, some journals could survive because the number of pages printed a month by the premiere journals was limited. No more in the day of digital. If PLoS One – an Open Access journal –wants to publishh more papers, it just needs more server space.
Open access journals are where researchers will look to publish anyway. Let’s make it official.