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    Why Do Democrats Want To Get Rid Of The NIH Public Access Policy?
    By Hank Campbell | September 17th 2008 03:55 PM | 8 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
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    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.

    Comments

    It'as as simple as Big Pharma not wanting people to do their own health research. After all, if you can find thru NIH that such and such drug is not really any better than placebo and that it can have such and such side effects, while that other herbal supplement you keep hearing about works about as bad but without the side effects, which one are you going to want to try first, especially if there is a big price differential in favor of the "alternative" one?

    And what happens when you learn that the drug is actually a "copy" of the "alternative" one, i.e., a biological analog? One that has been specifically designed to be patentable?

    Well...

    I think people should not read things they were not meant to read. They should trust their MDs who have proper "Hawaian conference" training. Such training is necessary to be able to tell the difference between "correct" and "incorrect" treatments.

    Hank
    It'as as simple as Big Pharma not wanting people to do their own health research. After all, if you can find thru NIH that such and such drug is not really any better than placebo ...

    That's a complicated solution, though business often is. So you think it is pharmaceutical companies trying to squelch this? We are talking about peer-reviewed NIH studies being open access here, not burying studies. Plenty of stories get written when drugs don't do what is claimed and it has nothing to do with access to the actual peer-reviewed article.

    I doubt a lay person can interpret most of it, right? But the value to other researchers is likely tremendous and would probably also lead to more citations for the authors.

    In principle, open access should be mandated because it's taxpayer money and private companies should not be allowed to copyright that or charge researchers a lot more to waive copyright.

    Rudy Baum, Editor-in-Chief of Chemical & Engineering News, which is owned by the ACS (who publishes the magazine you get 'for free' if you become a member of the ACS), is not a fan of open access and tries to use 'conservative' principles to support his position, namely by saying the government should not be in the publishing business.

    Now, I am no William F. Buckley, but using conservative principles to say that the NIH should get taxpayer money, redistribute it to researchers and in return require that the results be publicly available to taxpayers would be some kind of Big Government violation of free trade boggles the logical mind.

    We would have to assume it is the publishing companies that make money, even the 'non-profit' ones, that being sort of a sham, are the ones who don't want open access. It would cost them subscribers. So ACS, AAAS, Elsevier, MacMillan, etc. are likely the ones donating to Conyers.

    I am not a political investigator but I'd love to find out who those organizations donate campaign funds to.

    Hatice Cullingford
    Greetings. I don't care which party is to blame but I agree: In principle, open access should be mandated because it's taxpayer money and private companies should not be allowed to copyright that or charge researchers a lot more to waive copyright. It is one thing to be frustrated, another is what to do about it. We sometimes have things falling through the cracks. Other times, nobody cares in the hierarchy of importance. This one is higher in my hierarchy. I wonder how much money we are talking about here. Does the NIH budget reflect some of it somehow??
    Hank
    The NIH budget is 50% of the total government funding for science. Johns Hopkins alone gets over a whopping $1 billion.

    Hank
    Someone else is finally catching on to this - http://arstechnica.com/science/news/2009/02/congress-may-slam-door-on-nih-research-open-access-policy.ars

    If you care, email him - john.conyers@mail.house.gov .  His homepage brags about overcoming two Bush vetoes but Bush didn't veto open access science.   Conyers wants to do just that.
    Yes, it's correct that our Copywrites need to be capped, so that the public can benefit from WHATEVER solutions come along. That has nothing to do with political affiliation, so why drag the oh-poor-us into it........just muddling the issue. Tapping into anger over being "mistreated" does nothing to keep ppl on track about copywrites. Copywrite Laws are the issue.

    Hank
    The media companies are not complaining about copyright, since that won't wash -they are claiming it is an IP issue, so they are ducking the real concern.   

    This is not a Disney character, this is science data.  Not having it open access means schools spend a fortune for 1200 journals each year or researchers duplicate data, which again taxpayers pay for.  It's like the federal government using taxpayer money to hold an election and then letting voting booth companies charge to see the results.
    Gerhard Adam
    The media companies are not complaining about copyright, since that won't wash -they are claiming it is an IP issue, so they are ducking the real concern.  
    Why would this be an intellectual property issue?  There can be no claim for this if the objective is to provide those individuals that paid for it access since, by definition, it is their property.  So if it's taxpayer funded than the "owners" of the property are the public.
    Mundus vult decipi