A heated debate between researchers, Congress, and publishing houses across the United States is exploding over public access to federally-funded research.
The bill, HR 6845, seeks to require that all scientific research funded by the National Institute of Health must be made available via the scientific database PubMed Central within 12 months of publication. The NIH adopted this policy in April of this year, but publishers say that the policy amounts to government meddling and infringement of copyright.
It should be common sense that research that receives funding from the public coffers should be available to the public. Publishers say that it violates their copyright, and infringes on the commercial viability of their scientific publications. The NIH thinks it's just good sense to show the public what they're buying with their tax dollars.
A policy of making publicly-funded research available to the public would not only improve public knowledge and awareness, but also provide a guaranteed venue for research to be published and made available to other scientists and researchers. At least 33 Nobel Prize winners support the NIH's policy, saying that it serves the scientific community, students, and other researchers.
Not only does it serve to create a larger audience for research, but it also allows taxpayers to see where their money is being spent. It could prevent wasteful spending in research, and hold the NIH accountable for only funding projects that further a public interest.
Many projects being researched provide valuable information to the public on such matters as diabetes, medical conditions, infectious diseases and other health matters. Segments of the public do not have access to reliable or complete databases of scientific or medical journals and making federally-funded research available to them is a valuable public service.
So what about the poor, impoverished publishers who claim that the government is trying to take away their market? There is still plenty of privately-funded research conducted in science and medicine. The policy would only apply to federally-funded articles. There would still be a market for those groups that want to publish their work, but have not received federal funding.
This policy does not amount to government meddling, but creates public access to useful information that some individuals may not be able to access on their own. Additionally, it allows for the taxpaying public to see where its money is going, and reap the benefits of the investments that the NIH and the government has made on its behalf.
HR 6845 provides a valuable opportunity to the academic, scientific, medical and public communities by opening wide the doors of access to research and medical information.
The editorial board is composed of David Grant, Laurel Colella, David McIlroy, Sally Bull and Jackie Peters