The Fate of HR 3699 – Can we make a difference?

In a recent Inside Higher Ed essay, eleven provosts of prominent research institutions who are members of the CIC (Committee on Institutional Cooperation) wrote in a collective essay, “our scholars seek to share information broadly as the most effective way to assure excellence – not just for themselves, or for a particular university, but for the relevance of their disciplines and the world-changing outcomes each can produce.”  As a public research university, Georgia State seeks opportunities to advance the public good.

Enter the supporters of The Research Works Act (HR 3699).  This proposed bill would repeal the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA) currently in place, and bar other federal agencies from enacting a similar policy.  As a result, the public’s access to scientific research that was funded by taxpayer money would be seriously restricted; in effect, accessible to those who have the means, financial and otherwise, to obtain this information from subscription journals.  Not surprisingly, commercial publishers, such as Elsevier, who make profits from selling subscriptions to scholarly journals, have come out in support of this bill.

What did we, as scholars and researchers, do about it? 

  • The Association of Research Libraries (ARL), along with individual academic institutions, organizations such as the Public Library of Science (PLoS), Association of American Universities (AAU) and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) have written letters and statements in opposition to HR 3699 and submitted them to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.  Georgia State University is a signatory on one such letter dated February 24, 2012.
  • Elsevier journal authors, editors and reviewers signed a pledge to refrain from publishing, refereeing or doing editorial work in any Elsevier journal until the publisher changes its business practices.  A few GSU faculty signed the pledge.  One of the business practices listed was the publisher’s support of HR 3699.

There are other ways that individuals can promote the sharing and distribution of their work.  At a minimum, authors should retain the intellectual property rights to their own work so they can share it and distribute it freely.  The Digital Archive @ GSU is one open access repository where GSU authors can place their work for worldwide visibility.  More about that in a future blog post.

Did our efforts work?

Yes.  On February 27, Elsevier withdrew its support for The Research Works Act.  The press release mentioned hearing from their authors, editors and reviewers about their displeasure with the publisher’s support of this legislation.  The same day, according to a Chronicle of Higher Education report, “the bill’s co-sponsors, Rep. Darrell Issa, a Republican of California, and Rep. Carolyn Maloney, a Democrat of New York, issued a statement of their own saying that they would not push for action on the bill after all.”

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