Skip

pay for research once... you are a taxpayer... pay for research twice... well, we shouldn't pay for research twice
April 20, 2010 4:30 PM   Subscribe

Yesterday (April 15), Representatives Doyle (D-PA), Waxman (D-CA), Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL), Harper (R-MS), Boucher (D-VA) and Rohrabacher (R-CA) introduced the Federal Research Public Access Act (HR 5037), a bill that would ensure free, timely, online access to the published results of research funded by eleven U.S. federal agencies. -Alliance for Taxpayer Access.

Text of H.R.5037

The US government funds research with the expectation that new ideas and discoveries from the research will propel science, stimulate the economy, and improve the lives and welfare of Americans. In addition, the government also funds collaborative information technology and network-based infrastructure projects such as investments in supercomputer centers to leveraging investments in collaborative database development such as Genbank. These wide and diverse investments in e-science have fundamentally changed the nature of scientific research and the understanding by members of the research community of how research is conducted and shared. Recently, policy makers have recognized these changes via legislative and administrative processes and are now focused on new strategies to enhance US economic competitiveness, to advance science, to better manage the research investments, and improve access to the fruits of our collective investment.



Federal Research Public Access Act of 2010
ARL Submits Comments to OSTP Regarding Public Access Policies for Science & Technology Funding Agencies (Jan. 19, '10) [PDF]
ARL Joins Coalition in Letters to Lieberman and Cornyn Federal Research Public Access Act of 2009
Principles for Release of Scientific Research, US Office of Science & Technology Policy (May 2008)
NIH Public Access Policy
AAP PR Campaign against Open Access and Public Access to Federally Funded Research, 2007
CURES Act of 2005
Federal Research Public Access Act of 2006
ACS Challenging NIH's PubChem Database, 2005
Alliance for Taxpayer Access (ATA)


Via: ARL.
posted by infinite intimation (26 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is very good.
posted by Jimbob at 4:57 PM on April 20, 2010


This is so obviously "duh" that I can't believe we need an act of Congress to make it so.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 5:12 PM on April 20, 2010 [6 favorites]


Good.
posted by odinsdream at 5:17 PM on April 20, 2010


I'm a researcher. I use my university's subscription to the major journals in my field, which are all non-profit, but charge the university libraries very significant sums of money for access. When I publish an article, I also pay the journal a significant amount of money, about $150 per page. This money doesn't come from the university, it comes from the NSF grant that supports my research.

Now, if we prevent journals from charging for access, some universities are guaranteed to drop the journal. The journal now can't sustain itself with subscriptions, so it raises the page charges (remember, I'm talking about non-profit journals). And who pays for the page charges? In the vast majority of cases, the federal government.

Bottom line: the journals will get funded, but now they will charge the NSF (or whatever funding agency) more and the universities less. Whether or not that is a good thing, I don't know. I guess it's better for the general public, but I work in a field which is practically useless, so it's not obviously an unmitigated good.

(Disclaimer: I'm talking about physical sciences. I can't speak for every field.)
posted by kiltedtaco at 5:24 PM on April 20, 2010


In this Act the term `Federal agency' means an Executive agency defined under section 105 of title 5, United States Code.
So, not the Congressional Research Service.
posted by MrMoonPie at 5:26 PM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Please make the USPTO deposit all submitted structures into PubChem.
posted by benzenedream at 5:28 PM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Now, if we prevent journals from charging for access, some universities are guaranteed to drop the journal.

I'm trying to understand what you mean here. If journals don't charge for access, then the university doesn't have to subscribe to the journal - but it will still be available. Why would a university "drop" a journal that has now become free?
posted by Jimbob at 5:30 PM on April 20, 2010


So it looks like they want to push the NIH policy from 12 months to 6 months? And the NSF will finally have to develop a policy....

Bottom line: the journals will get funded, but now they will charge the NSF (or whatever funding agency) more and the universities less.

My guess would be: more journals with page charges, you'll need to budget for publication, but agency funding won't increase, so the new, bigger publication budget will eat into your research budget.

I'm trying to understand what you mean here. If journals don't charge for access, then the university doesn't have to subscribe to the journal - but it will still be available. Why would a university "drop" a journal that has now become free?

By "drop", kiltedtaco means that the library will drop their paid subscription, because access to the articles is now free. As the journals make less money from subscriptions, they will have to find some other means of supporting publication. And even an electronic-only, nonprofit journal has publication costs. They have to support an editorial and administrative staff, plus bandwidth.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:35 PM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sounds good to me, and I <3 DWS.
posted by contessa at 5:56 PM on April 20, 2010


Ah, fair enough. "Drop" is just a funny word for it.
posted by Jimbob at 5:58 PM on April 20, 2010


My guess would be: more journals with page charges, you'll need to budget for publication, but agency funding won't increase, so the new, bigger publication budget will eat into your research budget.

A certain percentage of the money from research grants typically goes to the university for infrastructure. In a perfect world, since the library now has to pay a lot less money for journals, the university could afford to take a smaller slice of your grant.

Okay, I can't actually see that happening, though.
posted by Jimbob at 6:08 PM on April 20, 2010


I still wonder what academic journals do for their money. The content is generated on someone elses dime, editorial work and reviewing is almost always volunteer, typesetting is either done by the author or outsourced and online publishing is all anyone reads. What do the fees buy?
posted by Fiery Jack at 6:21 PM on April 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Why Are Scholarly Journals Costly even with Electronic Publishing? (19-page PDF)

"High journal prices in the last 30 years have led to a crisis in scholarly communications. One of the reasons for spiraling journal costs is the economics of the journal publishing business. High journal prices may be considered an indicator of an inefficient market. A “lack of competition” and “perverse incentives” have led to rapidly rising prices in the last 30 years. These two key issues are still relevant to some extent with online publishing. The shift to electronic publishing has been driving the journal publishing industry towards a considerable consolidation as it has required significant investments in electronic services and electronic delivery. On the other hand, publishing through open access models and electronic publishing are two ways which are challenging the traditional economics of scholarly journal publishing."
posted by cashman at 7:02 PM on April 20, 2010


I still wonder what academic journals do for their money.

Bunches of grad students working as various kinds of assistants cost lots of money. So do the course buydowns for the editors and/or the

I still can't quite figure out why the Journal of Radioanalytical and Nuclear Chemistry is worth about $15000/year, though, when plenty of other academic quarterlies do just fine at $500 or less for institutional subscribers.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:46 PM on April 20, 2010


I would expect page charges to be a very small part of the cost of doing research. Is this not the case? Also, wouldn't university libraries keep their journal subscriptions just to maintain electronic access to back issues? Or is that already free?

Disclaimer: I know nothing about the economics of research journals. Can't you scientists just set up a peer-moderated listserv or something?
posted by ryanrs at 7:50 PM on April 20, 2010


In 1996 attended a panel discussion at the Society for Neuroscience meeting at the old DC convention center. Some drunk managed to get in off the street and, while security gently tried to remove him, firmly stated that he had a right to be there because the research was paid for by tax dollars.

At that same meeting (and I only mention this because of today's date), I got to hang out will Bill DeVane, who was instrumental in discovering the endogenous ligand for the THC receptor. Cool guy.
posted by exogenous at 7:58 PM on April 20, 2010


Anything that drives journals to drop print and move straight to online only publication is a good thing. Have you read anything in Nature lately? Page limits are ridiculous. So much is truncated that you can't tell half of what was done, because there's no room to include actual methods. Even when you do get the online version, they only include one additional page of methods.

First online-only open-access journal to which I submitted a manuscript took my multi-page table and published it in place in the final article. All 17 figures as well. (It was an anatomy paper - the figures were the main point.) No extra charge for color. I loved it and would recommend using a similar publisher to anyone. There is simply no reason to limit the inclusion of content important to the paper if the only reason for doing so is that it makes the print journal too big. Drop the print journal and you drop a huge chunk of your overhead costs as a publisher.

If the study was funded by taxpayers it really belongs to them once published. NIH did this first, and having other organizations follow is a damn good idea.
posted by caution live frogs at 8:01 PM on April 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Maybe this will kill the stupid outdated journal model. Why have we replicated a dead tree system online? Let's replace it with a peer-reviewed wiki.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:08 PM on April 20, 2010


Maybe this will kill the stupid outdated journal model. Why have we replicated a dead tree system online? Let's replace it with a peer-reviewed wiki.

What is your opinion of Scholarpedia?
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 8:38 PM on April 20, 2010


Reed Elsevier plc (ADR) (Public, NYSE:RUK)
# Mkt cap 9.99B
# Shares 303.32M
# EPS 1.13
"Revenue is derived principally from subscriptions, circulation and transactional sales, advertising sales and exhibition fees. During the year ended December 31, 2009, 45% of Reed Elsevier’s revenue from continuing operations was derived from subscriptions; 28% from circulation and transactional sales; 10% from advertising sales; 10% from exhibition fees, and 7% from other sources."

In FY2009 they made $1,275,000,000 USD in operating profits (on $9.8B in revenue) from continuing operations.

They can afford some competition.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:48 PM on April 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


MetaFilter: Can't you just set up a peer-moderated listserv or something?
posted by hippybear at 12:06 AM on April 21, 2010


Having gone from a large private research university to a large public university, I am now more aware of the cost of subscriptions and how much I need journal access.

If you're feeling sorry for publishers, please take a look at current textbook prices. Then, go look at how much a library pays for a subscription to Science or Nature. Then try a few more journals. Do some quick multiplication. Realize how much money we're talking about. Here, read about subscription cost increases (there's an ad first, but you can skip it if you like) from The Library Journal. An older article (ironically behind a paywall) from last year discusses the average costs for publications for libraries.

Also: Elsevier can bite me.
posted by sciencegeek at 4:54 AM on April 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Unfortunately, this bill is probably not going to pass this session. It's the first time it's been introduced, it's not part of a major push, there aren't many big names behind it (although Waxman is behind it, he's not on the committee) and it's going to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which is probably not going to really advance it in any way.

It's a nice thought, but it may take a while to get there.
posted by Michael Pemulis at 11:55 AM on April 21, 2010


I'm very in favor of this. I have access to a ton of journals as a student, and I'm happy about that, but if tax payers are paying for it, then the average joe with an internet connection should also be able to read that research without having to pay again.

The point that the schools will just end up paying for it all is kindof moot for me - they are paying for most of it anyway.
posted by jamuraa at 12:41 PM on April 21, 2010


I often think about this in terms of the effect on researchers in developing countries.

Free access to papers? Very cool.
Having to pay a lot more to publish your paper? Not so cool.

But I think the first point outweights the second, purely in terms of education and knowledge transfer. Because the great thing about the US increasing access to information, is that the rest of the world benefits. I have to give the US credit for this. Your free-market, libertarian obsession means tax payers demand access to what they spend their money on. In terms of getting the raw data for my research, for example, the USGS, NASA, Forest Service etc. are absolutely brilliant, compared to agencies in Australia or the UK, where there's always some kind of overpriced cost-recovery going on.
posted by Jimbob at 6:04 PM on April 21, 2010


I would share five metric internets with someone who could do a good job of connecting this set of stats, with this post.
Those who don't understand the vastness of 'life', are doomed to be uninterested in most sciences which will better our societies, and provide for long term human survival, stability and advancement.

How about some trickle down education; think about it, more people having access to real science unfiltered by the simplified, and often less clearly elucidated versions that everyone gets in our pop sci-media, means teachers at levels other than just "university/college", like high-school, and elementary school will have access to, and be made more aware of how, and why real science was being done, this trickles down, and we start seeing higher performance; trust me, you'll thank me later.
Open source research; trickle down education
posted by infinite intimation at 9:05 PM on April 25, 2010


« Older The "Great Books College of Chicago" fires its...   |   Life, rekindled. Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post