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Now, it's impossible to know if the following two events are related, but it sure is some strange coincidence. The internet right now is abuzz with talks about a new piece of legislation being introduced in the US, apparently threatening to prevent Open Access to publicly funded research, the Research Works Act, H.R. 3699. There is a ton of information on this proposed bill, from The Atlantic, Michael Eisen, Jonathan Eisen, Tim O'Reilly, John Dupuis or Peter Suber, Boing Boing and many more. People are writing to their representatives to try and prevent this legislation from being signed into law.
And right now the deadline has been extended to answer the 'Requests for Information' (RFI) from the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) on public access to publicly funded research. With these RFIs, the Obama administration is basically asking for your opinion on Open Access (see also here, here, here and here). There are two sets of questions, one on public access to scholarly literature and one on digital data. There are, of course, two camps on this issue. Publishers (such as ESA) have already answered: they want to kill Open Access (this of course means they endorse the Research Works Act as well). Has anyone else seen other public answers from publishers? It seems they're not so open about this (sorry). In contrast, the stakeholders on the side of the public support Open Access. Harvard University has already provided their response, Kitware's response on literature and data is on Google Docs and Stevan Harnad has also responded.
However, the Research Works Act and now this extension of the RFI deadline can mean only one thing: the publishing industry is working to stop Open Access and this is not the first time. A huge counter-movement stopped this initiative dead from the start in 2007 and we need to do this again right now. A democracy works by the numbers, so now is the time to make sure Washington hears your voice. If you're in the US, contact your representatives and explain to them why the Research Works Act is a bad idea (maybe like this). No matter where you are based, answer the RFIs of the OSTP to let the White House know how important Open Access is to the entire world. They are looking for answers from
“non-Federal stakeholders, including the public, universities, nonprofit and for-profit publishers, libraries, federally funded and non-federally funded research scientists, and other organizations and institutions with a stake in long-term preservation and access to the results of federally funded research,”The numbers count, so even if you have signed any of the collective responses out there, send an individual email again with your answer. And, ideally, make your answer public, if you can, for others to share and send to the OSTP.
Just to offer an additional, shorter list of answers to the ones I linked to above, I've put my own answers below the fold (literature for now, data will follow later).
(1) Are there steps that agencies could take to grow existing and new markets related to the access and analysis of peer-reviewed publications that result from federally funded scientific research? How can policies for archiving publications and making them publically accessible be used to grow the economy and improve the productivity of the scientific enterprise? What are the relative costs and benefits of such policies? What type of access to these publications is required to maximize U.S. economic growth and improve the productivity of the American scientific enterprise?The most efficient way to translate basic research findings into innovations that grow the economy is to allow as many innovators access to these findings as easily as possible. Thus, publishing licenses such as CC-BY are exactly the kind of measure to enable and further research-driven innovation. The traditional entities to archive and make accessible scholarly works have always been (university) libraries. As such, federal agencies can and should support libraries to resume this task which has temporarily been outsourced to commercial publishers, which have prevented access by a subscription and copyright model which prevents innovators from accessing the latest research findings and has generated a rise in cost manifold beyond inflation as measured by the consumer price index.. thus, it is imperative to reduce the costs of public access to publicly funded research, while allowing as many innovators access to research findings as possible. Diverting those funds who are currently being accumulated with the shareholders of commercial publishers, towards libraries will cut publishing costs by orders of magnitude (through eliminating many middle-men) and enlarge the circle of potential innovators by orders of magnitudes, thus potentiating the current cost/benefit ratio exponentially.
(2) What specific steps can be taken to protect the intellectual property interests of publishers, scientists, Federal agencies, and other stakeholders involved with the publication and dissemination of peer-reviewed scholarly publications resulting from federally funded scientific research? Conversely, are there policies that should not be adopted with respect to public access to peer-reviewed scholarly publications so as not to undermine any intellectual property rights of publishers, scientists, Federal agencies, and other stakeholders?I would dispute any actual intellectual property rights of publishers over publicly funded research. I am aware that legally there are such rights as researchers most often hand over their copyrights to these publishers. However, since commercial publishers do not usually add any value to the published research results (even peer-review is performed pro-bono by researchers themselves), this practice needs to end. Publicly funded research has been bought by the public and belongs to the public. Ensuring publication licenses such as CC-BY for literature about publicly funded research is one of the possibilities to ensure the public retains its intellectual property on the research it funded.
(3) What are the pros and cons of centralized and decentralized approaches to managing public access to peer-reviewed scholarly publications that result from federally funded research in terms of interoperability, search, development of analytic tools, and other scientific and commercial opportunities? Are there reasons why a Federal agency (or agencies) should maintain custody of all published content, and are there ways that the government can ensure long-term stewardship if content is distributed across multiple private sources?Multiple private sources are always a suboptimal choice for long-term archiving: few private entities survive 'long-term'. Some libraries, in contrast, have been around for centuries, significantly longer than most private entities. Centralized access, however, suffers from as many cons as any monopoly. Ensuring the libraries of every research institution are sufficiently equipped to maintain long-term archiving of scholarly literature allows for a federated, decentralized archive of scholarly literature beyond any short-term financial fluctuations and allows for international collaboration for maximum safety through world-wide redundancy. A small fraction of the current subscription costs paid for by libraries would ensure such a long-term, publicly accessible archive.
(4) Are there models or new ideas for public-private partnerships that take advantage of existing publisher archives and encourage innovation in accessibility and interoperability, while ensuring long-term stewardship of the results of federally funded research?Not to my knowledge. Given the instability of private sources and the decades-long history of price-gouging, I would argue that this would not be a good idea, either.
(5) What steps can be taken by Federal agencies, publishers, and/or scholarly and professional societies to encourage interoperable search, discovery, and analysis capacity across disciplines and archives? What are the minimum core metadata for scholarly publications that must be made available to the public to allow such capabilities? How should Federal agencies make certain that such minimum core metadata associated with peer-reviewed publications resulting from federally funded scientific research are publicly available to ensure that these publications can be easily found and linked to Federal science funding?What is required is an evolving metadata and protocol standard that grows with the scientific enterprise and is under the control of scientists. Such a standard would homogenize the scholarly literature. The resulting homogeneity would allow researchers to streamline their workflow and free many hours spent searching for the literature for actually reading it. This standard must allow full-text access to the entire scholarly literature in order to be useful. The actual location of the publications is, of course, irrelevant, as long as proper long-term archiving is ensured (see above).
(6) How can Federal agencies that fund science maximize the benefit of public access policies to U.S. taxpayers, and their investment in the peer-reviewed literature, while minimizing burden and costs for stakeholders, including awardee institutions, scientists, publishers, Federal agencies, and libraries?The benefit is maximized by minimizing the costs associated with access. The costs are minimized by preventing third parties from adding costs to the process. One way to establish a short and thus cheap supply line is to have scholars deposit their work directly at their libraries, avoiding the costs of intermediaries such as publishers. The process of this deposition would still be identical to the current process (i.e., peer-review), albeit without intervening entities which withdraw funds but add little to no value.
(7) Besides scholarly journal articles, should other types of peer-reviewed publications resulting from federally funded research, such as book chapters and conference proceedings, be covered by these public access policies?Most definitely, yes, all of them. The public bought them and thus owns them. In some ways, scholarly work is nothing but commissioned by the public.
(8) What is the appropriate embargo period after publication before the public is granted free access to the full content of peer-reviewed scholarly publications resulting from federally funded research? Please describe the empirical basis for the recommended embargo period. Analyses that weigh public and private benefits and account for external market factors, such as competition, price changes, library budgets, and other factors, will be particularly useful. Are there evidence-based arguments that can be made that the delay period should be different for specific disciplines or types of publications?As the public already own these scholarly works, it is difficult to understand why there should be any embargo period to allow private entities, which have not contributed to the work, to profit from it. Every scholarly work that has been paid for by the public should be available to the public for immediate re-use and enter into the economy. It is hard to understand why there should be a waiting period for innovation to enter the market.
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