Elsevier Gives Up On Research Work Act

A small victory for the rebel forces:

Elsevier Withdraws Support for the Research Works Act.

Yay! Let’s keep up the pressure, crush the Research Works Act, and move to take the offensive!

In case you haven’t heard yet: this nasty bill would stop the National Institute of Health from making taxpayer-funded research freely available to US taxpayers. It’s supported by the Association of American Publishers (AAP)—but various AAP members, including MIT Press, Rockefeller University Press, Nature Publishing Group, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science have already come out against it. Now, put under pressure by the spreading boycott, Elsevier has dropped its support.

However, they make it crystal clear that this is just a tactical retreat:

… while withdrawing support for the Research Works Act, we will continue to join with those many other nonprofit and commercial publishers and scholarly societies that oppose repeated efforts to extend mandates through legislation.

I don’t know what position Springer and Wiley-Blackwell take on this bill: besides Elsevier they’re the biggest science publishers. If they all drop their support, the bill may die. And then we can take the offensive and push for the Federal Research Public Access Act.

This bill would make sure the people who pay for U.S. government-funded research—us, the taxpayers—don’t have to pay again just to see what we bought. It would do this by expanding what’s already standard practice at the National Institute of Health to some other big funding agencies, like the National Science Foundation.

On Google+, open-access hero Peter Suber writes:

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.

Indeed, for companies like Elsevier, the great thing about bills like the Research Work Act is that they make us work hard just to keep the status quo, instead of what we really want: changing the status quo for the better. And they’re perfectly happy to stage a tactical retreat in a little skirmish like this if it distracts us from our real goals.

So, let’s keep at it! For starters, if you teach or study at a university, you can click on the picture below, get a PDF file of a poster that explains the boycott, print it out, and put it on your 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!

Luckily, a PR blitz in various math journals will start to change that, at least in the field of mathematics. And soon I’ll talk about some exciting plans being developed on Math 2.0. But if you’re a biologist or chemist, for example, you really need to start the revolution over in your field.

4 Responses to Elsevier Gives Up On Research Work Act

  1. 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—decided to give up on it!

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