Public access for studies paid for by taxpayer money seems like a no-brainer. There's no reason peer-reviewed journals should get to charge researchers (paid for again by taxpayers) and then have a copyright on the work. Last year the government approved a bill that would require government-funded (NIH) researchers to submit their studies to PubMed Central no later than 12 months after publication in a peer-reviewed journal. It was a real win for open access advocates, many of whom wrote here about it.
But here, and certainly on activist science sites, there is recurring criticism of Republicans related to science yet no outrage that House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers Jr., a Democrat from Michigan, has introduced a bill, H.R.6845, to kill the public access that just began less than a year ago. We should be using that law as a stepping stone to more access (like for NSF-funded studies), not letting it die before the 12-month period wherein publication must be made open is even in effect. I get why publishers who probably donate to Conyers want public access killed, but that doesn't mean we should allow it.
Don't get me wrong, I understand politics and I certainly understand the "Why Republicans are wrong if they do it but here is why Democrats are right doing it" mentality among a subset of scientists and the circling of the wagons that will invariably ensue in those communities, but sometimes right is right regardless of party affiliations. If we're going to go after Republicans because it's the right thing to do and not just as part of a partisan witch hunt, we have to go after Democrats as well.
Webcast of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property hearing related to the bill here.
Two of the co-sponsors are Republicans so it looks bi-partisan, thus reaffirming the 'we hate Republicans' mentality in some but ignoring the bigger issue.
The bigger issue is that anyone at all is looking to undo this and the lesser issue is the political party part. However, since we are almost exclusively criticizing Republicans related to science, fairness demands that Democrats can't be the de facto 'friend of science' while undoing the most important piece of open access science legislation of this decade.
If no one is out there talking about the "Democrat War On Science" in this matter then the cultural attacks really have nothing to do with science at all and are just political operatives exploiting the science community for their benefit.
UPDATE Feb. 4, 2009: Conyers, Democrat non-friend of science from Michigan, has reintroduced his bill from last year. Worse, he still has all of his Judiciary Committee behind him and the NIH is without a leader like Elias Zerhouni to defend open access - the only reason this didn't go through then.
Why Do Democrats Want To Get Rid Of The NIH Public Access Policy?
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- Challenged: Does Open Access Mean Wider Dissemination For Science Publications?
- Science 2.0 win: Princeton bans academics from handing all copyright to journal publishers
- The Publisher's Pushback Against NIH's Public Access And Scholarly Publishing Sustainability