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You only have to search for "Research Works Act" or look for the #rwa hashtag on Twitter or follow the increasing number of people signing on to the petitions against RWA. You will see that this piece of intended US legislation, which hasn't even passed yet, is getting everybody with a stake in open scholarly communication up in arms. It's a storm of opposition as activists all over the globe come to the rescue of open access. Given this opposition, it seems unlikely that this legislation will pass. Nevertheless, I'd argue that it is already doing what it is supposed to do: delay the ultimate demise of a parasitic industry. Ironically (or maybe not), Nature Publishing Group, itself a component of this industry, albeit with a clear record of grasping the realities of the current developments, was the only voice calling the legislative stunt for what it is: a distraction (the article itself being a testament to the very keen awareness of NPG about scholarly communication and where it is headed).
The RWA is a distraction that works: for weeks now have open access supporters from all walks of science spent countless hours in opposition to this legislation. All these hours could have been spent developing an alternative scholarly communication system that doesn't require publishers with obscene profits. All these hours could have been spent convincing librarians to withdraw their funds from these publishers by cutting their subscriptions and leave them without their main source of income. All these hours could have been spent investing the saved funds from these canceled subscriptions into a system that hosts and makes accessible all scholarly literature and data via our libraries. Instead, we keep sending money to publishers who use it against us. Isn't this an absurd situation: we take time out of our day to complain about hat corporate publishers do with scholarly funds, while at the same time we keep sending them exactly these funds so the publishers can pay more politicians to write yet new legislation and pay more employees to write incendiary articles to keep us busy? Is nobody else seeing the Quixotesque situation here?
The corporate publishers make an annual profit of about 4 billion US dollars, or just under 11 million every single day of the year. Elsevier, in 2010, made a profit of about 3 million US$ per day. According to MapLight, the contributions to members of the US Congress by Elsevier totaled $306,550 for election cycles 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012. In other words, if the resulting RWA only delays Elsevier from going out of business for a single day, the investment in these politicians has already paid off. Thus, it is no surprise that Elsevier has their own, full-time employed 'government relations' officials (i.e., lobbyists) and appears to pay staff to directly write the legislation and the defense of that legislation for the politicians. Every single day their parasitic business model is defended means another 3 million in the pockets of their shareholders.
Hence,from now on, I will try to reduce the amount of opposition to publishers and instead focus my efforts more on convincing librarians to skip commercial publishers altogether and use the funds currently tied up in subscriptions to buy some servers to host all the literature and data.
Let's bring our scholarly communication system back into our hands! Hit the publishers where it hurts: their pocketbooks.
Libraries, cut off corporate publishers from the funds that fuel their anti-science activities and cancel all your subscriptions to journals from corporate publishers!
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