Open access bill stalls in Congress

A bill designed to make scientific research funded by the US government's 11 largest funding bodies accessible for free by the general public is hibernating in the US legislature, awaiting some resolution in the heated health care reform debate before it can be seriously discussed by lawmakers. Congressional staffers in the US Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, where the linkurl:Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA) of 2009;http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c1

By | October 8, 2009

A bill designed to make scientific research funded by the US government's 11 largest funding bodies accessible for free by the general public is hibernating in the US legislature, awaiting some resolution in the heated health care reform debate before it can be seriously discussed by lawmakers. Congressional staffers in the US Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, where the linkurl:Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA) of 2009;http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c111:s1373: (S.1373) lingers, have been forced to shift their attentions to health care and away from the bill. "They're definitely swamped," Heather Joseph, executive director of the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, told __The Scientist__. Joseph added that movement on FRPAA is not expected "until after health care gets sorted out." Senators Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and John Cornyn (R-TX) introduced FRPAA in June, after noting the success of the hotly-debated open access mandate enacted by the National Institutes of Health last year, according to Joseph, which has garnered largely positive reactions in both the scientific and publishing communities. That policy requires that all NIH-funded research be deposited in linkurl:PubMed Central,;http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/ an open access repository, within 12 months of publication in the scientific literature. A linkurl:previous version;http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c109:s2695: of FRPAA died in committee in 2006 as the NIH policy was hashed out, and the 2009 version of the bill remains largely unchanged. It directs 11 federal agencies with extramural research budgets greater than $100 million per year -- including the National Science Foundation, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Agriculture, and NASA -- to deposit published manuscripts resulting from tax-payer funding in a digital repository that is accessible by the general public no later than six months after the article has been published in a peer-reviewed journal. Joseph added that a companion FRPAA bill is "under active consideration" in the House of Representatives, another indication that lawmakers are taking the relatively smooth adoption of the NIH open access mandate as a sign that the dire predictions of widespread subscription cancellations may have been unfounded. "[Lawmakers are] seeing that there isn't a negative effect, and we're starting to unlock a large number of these manuscripts." David Shulenburger, vice president for academic affairs at the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, told __The Scientist__ that FRPAA's passage is "inevitable." "If we can make [scientific information] available, preferably with an embargo period, you can ensure that everyone has it for use without doing damage to scientific journals," he said. "The quicker we get the largest corpus of science material out there and publically accessible, the greater the opportunity there is for it to be used. Sooner is better, and sooner is likely to occur if we take a FRPAA-type of action." Predictably, though, not everyone is so excited about FRPAA. "My hope is that [FRPAA] doesn't go anywhere," Martin Frank, executive director of the American Physiological Society, told __The Scientist__. Frank called FRPAA a "problematic piece of legislation," saying that its six month embargo period for submission to an open access repository may lead to scores of librarians cancelling valuable institutional subscriptions to scientific journals. "Most journals are sustained by subscriptions," Frank said. "The potential exists that an institutions could say, 'We can wait for the content to get here in the absence of a subscription.'" Frank called FRPAA "an unsustainable plan for many small publishers, including not-for-profit publishers." Some of these smaller publishers, Frank said, only put out an issue every other month or quarterly, and a six month open access embargo would likely compromise their business models. "Six months is clearly problematic for small publications." The American Physiological Society publishes more than 15 scientific journals, all of which make content freely available 12 months after publication. Joseph and Shulenburger both said that there's no empirical support for such claims. "We have no data that shows that any publishers have been hurt by the NIH policy," Joseph said. "Everything points to a healthy system, rather than the opposite, with the sky falling." But Frank cites information that he says indicates there is harm to be done in mandating that manuscripts are made open access six months after publication (and not 12 months after publication as the NIH policy states). "There has been some survey work of librarians that has indicated that they would be more inclined to cancel a subscription if the content were available six months after publication compared to 12 months after publication." Frank could not furnish that reference, however, when requested by __The Scientist__. ("I was not able to find the reference," he wrote in an email to __The Scientist__.) Frank added that calling the NIH open access policy a "success" is premature. "The argument that there's no evidence that six months or 12 months will have no impact is really immaterial at this point," he said. "We haven't had enough time to see an impact." The first NIH-funded manuscripts were deposited in PubMed Central in May of last year.
**__Related stories:__***linkurl:Heather Joseph: Q&A;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/55409/
[9th February 2009]*linkurl:Anti-open access bill is back;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/55403/
[5th February 2009]*linkurl:Public access begins;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/54525/
[7th April 2008]

Comments

Avatar of: MARTIN FRANK

MARTIN FRANK

Posts: 2

October 8, 2009

Unfortunately, I did not have time to dig out the reference when I was talking to Bob Grant. The reference is Beckett, C., & Inger, S. (2007). Self-Archiving and Journal Subscriptions: Co-existence or Competition? An international survey of librarians' preferences (No. Summary Paper 2). London: Publishing Research Consortium, from http://www.publishingresearch.org.uk/documents/Self-archiving_summary2.pdf. It demonstrated that "a 6-month embargo offers only a limited defence against erosion of subscriptions." \n
Avatar of: Phil Davis

Phil Davis

Posts: 10

October 8, 2009

The study cited by Mary Frank is the survey and analysis conducted by Beckett and Inger (2007). While their questions focused on hypothetical scenarios posed to librarians, they concluded that a six-month embargo may be too short. They write:\n\n"We believe our research demonstrates that mandating self-archiving within 6 months or less of publication will undermine the subscription-based peer review journal. This, we presume, cannot be in the longterm interest of funding bodies." (p.16)\n\n\nBeckett, C., & Inger, S. (2007). Self-Archiving and Journal Subscriptions: Co-existence or Competition? An international survey of librarians' preferences (Summary Paper 2). London: Publishing Research Consortium, from http://www.publishingresearch.org.uk/documents/Self-archiving_summary2.pdf
Avatar of: MARTIN FRANK

MARTIN FRANK

Posts: 2

October 8, 2009

Another reference -\nALPSP Survey of Librarians on Factors in Journal Cancellation by Mark Ware and published in 2006\nThe report needs to be purchased, but the summary and conclusions are available for free. At the time of the survey, Ware reported that embargoes would need to be short to become an issue in cancellation decision-making. see:\nhttp://www.alpsp.org/ngen_public/article.asp?id=200&did=47&aid=157&st=&oaid=-1\n\nFrom examination of all kinds of\nembargoed content (whether from delayed OA, self-archiving or\naggregations), it is clear that the embargo has to be very short indeed to\ncompete with a subscription: for 82% it had to be 3 months or less, and for\n92% it had to be 6 months or less (p. 13).

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