Free Access to Taxpayer-Funded Research — Act Now!

If you’re a US citizen, your taxes pay for lots of scientific research. If you sign this White House petition, you may get to see the research you paid for!

Just click this:


We need a total of 25,000 signatures before June 19th for this to land on the president’s desk. That sounds hard. But:

• On May 29th, we only needed 5825 more.

• On May 30th we only needed 4765 more.

• Right now, on May 31st, we only need 3354.

We can do it! Sign it and pass it on!

The petition says:

Require free access over the Internet to scientific journal articles arising from taxpayer-funded research. We believe in the power of the Internet to foster innovation, research, and education. Requiring the published results of taxpayer-funded research to be posted on the Internet in human and machine readable form would provide access to patients and caregivers, students and their teachers, researchers, entrepreneurs, and other taxpayers who paid for the research. Expanding access would speed the research process and increase the return on our investment in scientific research. The highly successful Public Access Policy of the National Institutes of Health proves that this can be done without disrupting the research process, and we urge President Obama to act now to implement open access policies for all federal agencies that fund scientific research.

If you want more information, read about the Federal Research Public Access Act. This is a bill that would make taxpayer-funded research freely available, while still preserving the legitimate rights of publishing companies.

12 Responses to Free Access to Taxpayer-Funded Research — Act Now!

  1. Mike Taylor says:

    And please note, you do not need to be an American citizen to sign this petition. Internation signatures are welcomed. The only requirements are that are are 13 or older, and that you have an email address that can be used for verification.

  2. Unfortunately, it talks only about public access, leaving open the question of how this is implemented. Many publishers are happy with open access: they mean a model where the author pays the costs and reading is free. This is even worse than the subscription-based model (where there is some motivation to publish high-quality stuff) and reeks of vanity publishing. Of course, it does nothing to solve the problem of the costs being too high. I would have hoped that such a petition would have at least avoided the “meet the new boss; same as the old boss” trap and targeted the too high profits of publishers, which are the root of the problem.

    • Mike Taylor says:

      The petition doesn’t get into talking about the means, because the end is more important. The goal here is to sweep away a massive, artificial impediment that dramatically and unnecessarily retards the progress of science, health-care, education, third-world development, industry and much more. We can (and surely will) discuss in detail how this is to be done. But right here and right now, the urgent thing is to resolve that it will be done.

      Sign the petititon!

      • I see your point, but there is the danger that those supporting the author-pays-everything form of open access will use this to create the impression that publishers are also in favour of “open access”, making it more difficult to combat the real problem, which are the too high profits. . . . . .

        • Mike Taylor says:

          (Sequence of replies is getting squeezed up against the margin! I’ll try to keep this short.)

          I definitely agree that academic publisher profit margins (between 32% and 42% of revenue for the Big Four) are ridiculous and unsustainable.

          But they are already being undercut by open-access publishers such as PLoS (whose $1350 publication fee in PLoS ONE is about 1/4 to 1/8 what it costs the community to publish with Elsevier), and further by new and on-the-way OA publishers like PeerJ ($99 publication fee!)

          The point about author-pays open access is that it’s an efficient market: because authors can go elsewhere if a price is too high or service is too poor, publishers will have to compete for papers on price and quality of service. That can only push prices down — way down.

          … But all that is for the future. Right now, the urgent thing is for us all to stand up and say “this is ridiculous: it’s our research, we paid for it, corporations must not be allowed to own it”.

          So please sign the petition! :-)

        • As long as the author pays and the journal makes any profit at all, then there is a conflict of interest: publish more papers, make more money. This is the one advantage of a subscription model: people will not subscribe if the quality is too low. In fact, the only reason that overpriced journals can exist is that there is some sort of quality control. There can be competition with the subscription model as well. Why doesn’t it work? Because there is pressure to publish in reputable journals. I don’t see how a scheme where the author pays changes this.

          I think the solution is for professional societies to have journals which would essentially be just a web page with links to “approved” papers on arXiv. The refereeing would be done by the professional society instead of the publisher. (Of course, in the end the same people would be refereeing.) One just needs arXiv to agree to a few small changes (such as having an ombudsman whose word is final and recognized by all to settle any conflicts; of course, he should not be anonymous).

        • Mike Taylor says:

          “As long as the author pays and the journal makes any profit at all, then there is a conflict of interest: publish more papers, make more money.”

          Not when the publisher is a non-profit — as is the case with PLoS. In any case, publishers have a reputation to consider. No-one wants to publish bad papers.

          The problem — well, one of many — with the subscription model is that papers are not fungible. If I need to read Naish et al. 2004 on an English brachiosaurid cervical, I have to get it from Elsevier’s Cretaceous Research — there is no alternative. Whereas in an author-pays OA scenario, authors have freedom to choose a journal and readers can pick it up from wherever it lands up.

  3. [...] your name, email address, and zip code, and a brief till you get an email verifying the account.  This site says that as of today they need only 2300 signatures to reach the goal of 25,000.  I’ve [...]

  4. Sam says:

    A reply to Phillip Helbig:

    There do exist journals which are completely open access AND also free to publish in.

    Such journals are mostly very young, and so we shouldn’t be surprised that they aren’t super high prestige. But their prestige will rise in time. And if U.S. Government-sponsored research is required to be published open access, and the big journals insist on draconian author fees, then we will see a major exodus, and the young and upcoming new researchers will begin submitting to these 100% free journals. This will in turn cause these free journals to have a huge rise in prestige.

    Basically, it’s like Mike Taylor said. Open Access creates an actual market with actual competition. (Closed Access creates monopolies which are very difficult to fight against and ensure that in the big picture, all scientists lose.)

  5. [...] This site says that as of today they need only 2300 signatures to reach the goal of 25,000.  I’ve signed, [...]

  6. John Baez says:

    Over on Google+, Timothy Gowers wrote at 10:25 pm Greenwich Mean Time on the 4th of June:

    Just about to go to bed, with 149 to go. Hope to wake up to find that it’s well past 25,000.

    At 12:03 am Allen Knutson wrote:

    54 to go!
    40!
    34!

    At 12:26 am John Baez wrote:

    22!

    At 12:32 am Michael Nielsen wrote:

    9:32pm, US EST: 25,012!

    At 5:11 am Timothy Gowers wrote:

    My wish granted! What’s a realistic target for June 19th? Maybe a conservative one would be 35,000 and a more ambitious one 40,000. More than that would be quite a surprise given how things are going now.

    If you haven’t signed the petition yet, it’s not too late—do it now!

  7. What do you think about the Journal of very short papers publishing idea?

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