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Senate Inhofe vs. Public Access to Government Funded Research

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The Senate is about to decide if the public should have online access to articles when the research was funded by the NIH. The open access provision, which is part of a much larger appropriations bill, is fairly modest. It requires grant recipients to give the NIH the manuscript of published articles, for a database that gives the public access 12 months after the first publication of the article. The Senate could do more: it could give the public access after 6 months, or even better, require all articles to be pushed first in open access journals, so the science is better disseminated and more useful.

Senator Inhofe (R-Ok) is trying to eliminate this fairly modest but quite important provision. On behalf of publishers, he is offering two amendments, one that would simply strike the provision, and another that would void the obligation whenever the publishers objected.

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This is our letter to the Senate on the Inhofe amendments.

Knowledge Ecology International
1621 Connecticut Ave, NW Suite 500, Washington DC, 20009 - Tel +1 202 332 2670, www.keionline.org

22 October 2007

contact: Manon Ress, manon.ress@keionline.org

Dear Senator:

Knowledge Ecology International (KEI)[1] opposes proposed Amendments #3416 and #3417 to the FY 2008 Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations bill (S.1710).

Both amendments are naked attempts to eliminate public access to government funded research, in order to protect a handful of publishers.

KEI wrote the Senate on July 23, 2007, supporting the current provisions in the appropriations bill that require the deposit of manuscripts in the National Library of Medicine's online database to be made publicly available within one year of publication in a peer-reviewed journal.[2] One of the proposed Inhofe amendments (#3416) would return to the failed voluntary NIH policy now in place, while the other (#3417) would effectively eliminate the obligation whenever it was contrary to "the policies of the publishers who have conducted the peer review and accepted the manuscripts for publication."

Amendments like these are shocking reminders that citizens have to fight for access to the very research they have paid for as taxpayers.

As it stands, the open access provisions in the appropriation bill are not very strong. The Senate could have provided for public access with six months of first publication (as proposed in recent World Health Organization negotiations over access to knowledge standards), or much stronger measures, such mandatory obligations to publish only in open access journals that provide for immediate access.

Americans pay about $100 per capita to support the NIH, and deserve policies that promote access. When everyone has access to the research, science advances faster, and the expanded dissemination of new knowledge benefits doctors, patients and others who make more informed decisions.

KEI joins the growing movement of consumer groups, libraries, academic researchers and citizens who ask you to vote NO on Amendments #3416 and #3417.

Sincerely,

Dr. Manon A. Ress

[1]KEI is public interest organization that searches for better outcomes, including new solutions, to the management of knowledge resources. KEI undertakes and publishes research and new ideas, engages in global public interest advocacy, provides technical advice to governments, NGOs and firms, enhances transparency of policy making, monitors actions of key actors, and provides forums for interested persons to discuss and debate knowledge ecology topics. KEI also publishes the peer reviewed open journal Knowledge Ecology Studies.

[2] http://www.keionline.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=102