While in Europe the European ‘s Commission Digital Agenda is paving the way for Open Access to publicly funded research data (Data Access ) and Publications (OpenAire plus), the political landscape in the US looks quite differently. In a desperate move to stop the trend towards Open Access, which would be a severe blow to very lucrative publishing practices, the AAP (American Association of Publishers) and individual publishers are trying for the third time ( after 2008 and 2009) to pass a bill in congress that would mean a set back for the open access movement. The Research Works Act (H.R.3699), designed to roll back the NIH Public Access Policy and block the development of similar policies at other federal agencies has been introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives on dec 16, 2011. Essentially, the bill seeks to prohibit federal agencies from requiring that articles reporting on publicly funded research must be Open Access. This can be considered a direct attack on the National Institutes of Health's PubMed Central, the massive free online repository of articles resulting from research funded with NIH dollars. It once again shows that the lobby by the big scientific publishers is not to be underestimated. There is proof that Elsevier made 31 contributions to members of the House in 2011, of which 12 went to Representative Maloney ((co-sponsor of H.R. 3699). Among the other recipients is representative Issa, another sponsor of said bill (read more).
The White House has issued an RFI (request for information) where any party can answer a number of specific questions regarding access to data or access to scholarly published articles (RFI ) The deadline for reactions has recently been extended to jan 12, 2012.
Many individuals, universities and companies have submitted reactions opposing the bill. Harvard ‘s response can be read here. It will be clear to all of you reading this blog that we can not ignore these developments. Many open access initiatives have called upon their followers to react against the bill. Because there is not much time left, one easy way to get a large number of signatures would be to sign a ready-made online document. The company Kitware (developer of Avogadro, an open source molecular editor) provides us with just that; they have written a response to all the questions posed which anybody concerned with the issue can read, edit and sign. They will close down edits on January 10th, to format the final document responses and submit them to OSTP by January 12th. Until then the documents can be accessed at the following addresses: open response RFI articles, open response RFI Publications.
You as MalariaWorld subscribers are well aware of the utmost importance of Open Access to information for progress, not only in malaria research. Everytime you visit the Site the first thing you read is:
We envision a world in which there is free and unrestricted access to information on malaria, independent of geographical locality or socio-economic status. No matter who you are, where you are, or what you do, access to information is the key to knowledge.
So please take some time and sign the above mentioned documents before january 10, because every voice in favour of Open Access can and will make a difference.