[Taxacom] Access to US Federally funded data?

Neal Evenhuis neale at bishopmuseum.org
Fri Sep 19 20:33:24 CDT 2008

At 12:10 PM +1100 9/20/08, Jim Croft wrote:
>received this bit of unsolicited spam this morning but it seems to be legit.
>is the issue real?
>one of the more enlightened things to come out of the US legislature
>was the principle that if the government of the people paid for data,
>information and the tools to manage it then the people owned these
>assets and the people must have free and open access to them.
>is this about to change?

An article on this just appeared in this week's Science.


Science 19 September 2008:
Vol. 321. no. 5896, p. 1621
DOI: 10.1126/science.321.5896.1621a
House Weighs Proposal to Block Mandatory 'Open Access'
Jocelyn Kaiser
A controversial policy requiring researchers to make their papers 
freely available to the public at a U.S. National Institutes of 
Health (NIH) Web site is facing a potential roadblock. Last week, 
members of a powerful House committee held the first-ever 
congressional hearing on the policy and floated a proposal to 
overturn it.
Three years ago, NIH began asking grantees to send the agency copies 
of their accepted, peer-reviewed manuscripts so that it can post them 
in its full-text PubMed Central archive within 12 months after they 
are published. But compliance was so poor that proponents of the idea 
persuaded the House and Senate appropriations committees to tell NIH 
to make the policy mandatory (Science, 18 January, p. 266). Many 
publishers protested, complaining that the "public access" policy 
infringes on their copyrights and will put them out of business by 
cutting into their subscription base.
These critics have now found allies on the House Judiciary Committee. 
Last week at a 2-hour review of the policy, members of its 
Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property 
grumbled that by changing copyright rules, appropriators had 
overstepped their jurisdiction. Members heard testimony from both 
sides of the debate.

Paper chase. More authors have been submitting their articles to NIH 
since its public-access policy became mandatory in April.
NIH Director Elias Zerhouni argued that NIH simply wants to "maximize 
the return of our investment" of $400,000 per research grant. He 
emphasized that PubMed Central is enhancing the papers by linking 
them to other databases. "The real value is in the full 
connectivity," not "the passive document" in archives, he said. He 
noted that compliance with NIH's rule has risen since it took effect 
in April: Submissions are on track to reach 56% of the 80,000 
eligible papers per year, many submitted directly by journals (see 
graph, above). "There is no evidence that this has been harmful" to 
publishers, he argued. Open Access advocate Heather Joseph of the 
Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition in Washington, 
D.C., agreed. She argued that journals lose little by posting "old" 
papers 12 months after publication and noted that the policy applies 
to only NIH-funded studies.
Others disagreed. Law professor Ralph Oman of George Washington 
University in Washington, D.C., argued that NIH's policy is a 
"dilution of the rights of the copyright owners" and "will destroy 
the commercial market" for science and technology journals.
A bill introduced by Judiciary Committee Chair John Conyers (D-MI) 
would bar any federal agency from requiring "the transfer or license" 
to the government of a work that has been produced in part with 
nongovernment funds or to which value has been added by the publisher 
through peer review. The Fair Copyright in Research Works Act (HR 
6845) would mean grantees could not be required to submit accepted 
papers to a free archive.
Congress is not expected to act on the legislation before it adjourns 
later this month. Jonathan Band, a Washington, D.C., attorney who 
represents the American Library Association, which favors open 
access, says the bill is fatally flawed because of its sweeping 
provisions. "It goes far beyond the NIH policy. It limits a lot of 
what the federal government can do," he says. But Allan Adler, legal 
affairs director for the Association of American Publishers, which 
supports the bill, expects that both the House and Senate Judiciary 
Committees will examine the issue again next year. "This is really 
the beginning," Adler says.

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