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Trying to roll back the clock on Open Access: Research Works Act introduced

In a perplexing turn of events, Rep. Issa (R-CA) recently introduced the Research Works Act (H.R. 3699), on December 16, 2011. Co-sponsored by Rep. Maloney (D-NY), the bill would effectively turn back the clock on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Public Access policy put into place in 2008.  The bill was referred to the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform of which Rep. Issa is chairman.

If you recall, the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA), (H.R. 5037), introduced in April 2010 in the 111th Congress, was modeled after the NIH Public Access policy.  The ALA strongly supported FRPAA as it aimed to ensure free, timely, online access to the published results of federally funded  (i.e. tax-payer funded) research by eleven U.S. federal agencies and departments.  The bi-partisan supported bill mirrored a Senate version of FRPAA (S. 1373), and a brief history of these bills is available here.

The ALA has been a long-time, ardent supporter of increasing access to information of all types, including federally funded research.   This latest bill, the Research Works Act, would act in direct contradiction and therefore the ALA vehemently opposes the bill.

The truly perplexing part is how Rep. Issa can fight the good fight against an egregious anti-piracy copyright bill (SOPA, H.R. 3261), and at the same time turn so abruptly and set his sights on nullifying the NIH Public Access policy.  The ALA will be keeping close tabs on the Research Works Act bill and track whether there is even a hint at it gaining traction.

Addition posts on the bill

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Corey Williams

Corey Williams is a former member of the Washington Office government relations team.


  1. See:
    “Research Works Act H.R.3699:
    The Private Publishing Tail Trying To Wag The Public Research Dog, Yet Again”


    The US Research Works Act (H.R.3699): “No Federal agency may adopt, implement, maintain, continue, or otherwise engage in any policy, program, or other activity that — (1) causes, permits, or authorizes network dissemination of any private-sector research work without the prior consent of the publisher of such work; or (2) requires that any actual or prospective author, or the employer of such an actual or prospective author, assent to network dissemination of a private-sector research work.”

    Translation and Comments:

    “If public tax money is used to fund research, that research becomes “private research” once a publisher “adds value” to it by managing the peer review.”

    [Comment: Researchers do the peer review for the publisher for free, just as researchers give their papers to the publisher for free, together with the exclusive right to sell subscriptions to it, on-paper and online, seeking and receiving no fee or royalty in return].

    “Since that public research has thereby been transformed into “private research,” and the publisher’s property, the government that funded it with public tax money should not be allowed to require the funded author to make it accessible for free online for those users who cannot afford subscription access.”

    [Comment: The author’s sole purpose in doing and publishing the research, without seeking any fee or royalties, is so that all potential users can access, use and build upon it, in further research and applications, to the benefit of the public that funded it; this is also the sole purpose for which public tax money is used to fund research.]”

    H.R. 3699 misunderstands the secondary, service role that peer-reviewed research journal publishing plays in US research and development and its (public) funding.

    It is a huge miscalculation to weigh the potential gains or losses from providing or not providing open access to publicly funded research in terms of gains or losses to the publishing industry: Lost or delayed research progress mean losses to the growth and productivity of both basic research and the vast R&D industry in all fields, and hence losses to the US economy as a whole.

    What needs to be done about public access to peer-reviewed scholarly publications resulting from federally funded research?

    The minimum policy is for all US federal funders to mandate (require), as a condition for receiving public funding for research, that: (i) the fundee’s revised, accepted refereed final draft of (ii) all refereed journal articles resulting from the funded research must be (iii) deposited immediately upon acceptance for publication (iv) in the fundee’’s institutional repository, with (v) access to the deposit made free for all (OA) immediately (no OA embargo) wherever possible (over 60% of journals already endorse immediate gratis OA self-archiving), and at the latest after a 6-month embargo on OA.

    It is the above policy that H.R.3699 is attempting to make illegal…

  2. TR TR

    Do we know which subcommittee this will go to within the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform?

    Is this the “Subcommittee on Technology, Information Policy, Intergovernmental Relations and Procurement Reform”?

  3. Corey W Corey W

    At this point, the bill was introduced on December 16, 2011, and referred to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The bill has not been referred to a subcommittee.

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