Academic publishers are publically disagreeing with their commercial counterparts over their association's support of a bill being considered in the US Congress that would limit open access to research findings funded with tax payer dollars.
It was not so surprising when last week the Association of American Publishers (AAP) came out in favor of the Research Works Act, which would roll back the National Institutes of Health Public Access Policy mandating that all published research funded by the federal science agency be submitted to the publically accessible digital archive PubMed Central. But since announcing its stance, the trade group, which includes in its ranks scientific journal publishers Elsevier, Sage, and other corporate members, has been seeing its non-profit members—university presses and the like—voice their disagreement.
The MIT Press was the first to contravene the association's position on the legislation. "The AAP's press release on the Research Works Act does not reflect the position of the MIT Press," the press's director Ellen Faran wrote in an email making the rounds in open-access circles last week. "We will not, however, withdraw from the AAP on this issue as we value the association's work over all and the opportunity to participate as a member of the larger and diverse publishing community." She added her suspicion that other academic presses felt the same way about the Research Works Act, and it turns out she was right.
The Rockefeller University Press, the University of California Press, and the Pennsylvania State University Press all followed the MIT Press's lead, releasing their own statements rejecting the association's stance. Throughout last week, open-access advocate Richard Poynder followed the splits on his blog Open and Shut.
This week, Faran told The Chronicle of Higher Education that the MIT Press allows its authors to share pre- and post- publication versions of studies they publish in the press's scholarly journals, behavior that would be made illegal by the Research Works Act. The legislation, Faran told The Chronicle, "is not congruent with our other open-access policies."
The bill is currently in the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and if history is any guide, it faces a tough climb in Congress. Earlier versions of the legislation have all failed.