A larger victory for the rebel forces!
One day after Elsevier dropped its support for the Research Works Act, the people pushing this ugly bill—who coincidentally get regular contributions of cash from Elsevier—have decided to let it die! At least for now.
Here’s the joint statement from Representatives Darrell Issa and Carolyn B. Maloney, who proposed this bill… together with my translation into plain English:
“The introduction of HR 3699 has spurred a robust, expansive debate on the topics of scientific and scholarly publishing, intellectual property protection, and public access to federally funded research. Since its introduction, we have heard from numerous stakeholders and interested parties on both sides of this important issue.
Translation: the Association of American Publishers supported this bill because it would crush the Public Access Policy that makes taxpayer-funded medical research freely accessible online… and stop this practice from spreading to other kinds of research.
But then, scholars and ordinary people worldwide erupted in a wave of revulsion, even using this bill as an extra reason for boycotting the publisher Elsevier—the most vocal supporter of this bill.
For example, all way across the Atlantic, an editorial in the Guardian shouted: “The result would be an ethical disaster: preventable deaths in developing countries, and an incalculable loss for science in the USA and worldwide. The only winners would be publishing corporations such as Elsevier (£724m profits on revenues of £2b in 2010—an astounding 36% of revenue taken as profit).”
Since Elsevier is a global corporation, this is not what they want people to read in British newspapers.
As the costs of publishing continue to be driven down by new technology, we will continue to see a growth in open access publishers. This new and innovative model appears to be the wave of the future.
Translation: the big publishers are doomed in the long run.
The transition must be collaborative…
Translation: but Elsevier makes $100 million in profits every month now, so let's not move too fast.
… and must respect copyright law and the principles of open access. The American people deserve to have access to research for which they have paid.
Translation: we’re not evil. We’re for everything that sounds good, even things in direct contradiction to the bill we proposed!
This conversation needs to continue and we have come to the conclusion that the Research Works Act has exhausted the useful role it can play in the debate.
We’ve beaten, for now.
As such, we want Americans concerned about access to research and other participants in this debate to know we will not be taking legislative action on HR 3699, the Research Works Act. We do intend to remain involved in efforts to examine and study the protection of intellectual property rights and open access to publicly funded research.
But watch out: we’re not giving up.
So, we need to heed the words of open-access advocate Peter Suber:
This is a victory for what The Economist called the Academic Spring. It shows that academic discontent—expressed in blogs, social media, mainstream news media, and open letters to Congress—can defeat legislation supported by a determined and well-funded lobby. Let’s remember that, and let’s prove that this political force can go beyond defeating bad legislation, like the Research Works Act, to enacting good legislation, like the Federal Research Public Access Act.
So, folks, please:
1) Learn about the Federal Research Public Access Act. Blog about it, tweet about it: this is one of the few really good bills that Congress has considered for a long time.
2) If you’re a US citizen, sign the White House petition supporting the Federal Research Public Access Act. If 25,000 sign by March 9th, the president will review it.
3) No matter where you are, add a comment supporting the Federal Research Public Access Act to the Alliance for Taxpayer Access petition. And if you live in the US, sign the petition!
4) If you teach or study at a university, click on the picture below to get a PDF file of a poster explaining the boycott. Print it out and put it on your office door. While for some of us the Elsevier boycott is old news, a surprising number of people who should know haven’t heard of it yet! Within the field of mathematics, professional associations are planning a PR blitz to solve that problem. But if you’re in one of the bigger sciences, like biologist and chemistry, we really need you to help publicize what’s going on.