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Elsevier Abandons Anti-Open Access Bill

The publishing giant withdraws its support of the Research Works Act, which would eliminate open-access requirements on federally funded work.

By | February 28, 2012

image: Elsevier Abandons Anti-Open Access Bill Flickr, moonlightbulb

FLICKR, MOONLIGHTBULB

Publishing company Elsevier has backpedalled on its support of the Research Works Act (RWA), a bill that proposes to stop federal agencies from requiring that their grantees deposit federally funded research findings in open access databases.

Elsevier, which publishes a slew of highly cited science journals such as The Lancet and the Cell series, said in a statement yesterday that it decided to cease rallying for the legislation after hearing from "Elsevier journal authors, editors and reviewers who were concerned that the Act seemed inconsistent with Elsevier’s long-standing support for expanding options for free and low-cost public access to scholarly literature."

US Representatives Darrel Issa (R-CA) and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) introduced the RWA into the House of Representatives last December, and the Association of American Publishers, a trade group to which Elsevier and many other journal publishers belong, contributed heavily to drawing up the bill. Elsevier had been staunch supporters of the RWA, which would have rolled back the National Institutes of Health Public Access Policy—a mandate that any published research that was funded by the federal science agency be submitted to the publically accessible digital archive PubMed Central upon acceptance for publication.

But in January, renowned Cambridge University mathematician Timothy Gowers sparked a boycott of the publisher based on criticism involving the company's business practices and its support of the RWA. By early February, some 5,000 academics had signed on to the boycott, and as of this writing, more than 2,500 additional researchers have added their names to that list.

Tom Reller, an Elsevier spokesperson, told The Scientist that the company still opposes rigid government mandates regarding science publishing but hopes that withdrawing support of the RWA will quell some of the complaints the company had heard. "We don't necessarily think this is going to end the boycott or anything," he said, "but hopefully this helps everything calm down a little bit so we can get back to having a dialogue with funding bodies, both nonprofit and government."

But some boycotters aren't changing their positions based on Elsevier's latest move. University of North Carolina theoretical biology PhD student Joel Adamson said that the company's decision was welcomed, but that it didn't go far enough to deter his support for the boycott. "Within the realm of those kinds of solutions, it is a good thing, but it still doesn't go all the way toward what I would call a real solution to the problem," he said. "It shows me that they are a predictable corporation; in other words that they're capable of being scared that something might affect their profits." Adamson added that if Elsevier would abandon "bundling practices," in which the company allegedly groups desirable science journals with less-august titles in package deals for university libraries, it would go further towards changing his mind.

Albert Einstein College of Medicine geneticist Brett Abrahams said that he considers the decision a token gesture that means little in light of what he sees as Elsevier placing "the burden of the publication cost on the funders and on the public."

"They're still anti open-access," Abrahams said of Elsevier. "They've just taken a very far reaching outrageous position and backed off it a little bit."

Judging from Elsevier's statement announcing their withdrawal of support for the RWA, the company will continue to support similar legislation and oppose other open-access efforts, such as the recently introduced Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA) of 2012, which would mandate federal agencies with extramural research budgets more than $100 million to allow public online access to taxpayer-funded research. "While withdrawing support for the Research Works Act, we will continue to join with those many other nonprofit and commercial publishers and scholarly societies that oppose repeated efforts to extend mandates through legislation," the Elsevier statement read. "I was amazed that they still continue to defend the merits of the RWA," Abrahams added.

But Elsevier could make changes that would bring Abrahams back into the fold, the researcher said. "If Elsevier wants to drop their pricing 75 percent across the board, and provide open access for everything, I'll sing and dance for them."

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Comments

Avatar of: Mesfin Negia

Mesfin Negia

Posts: 1

February 28, 2012

This is typical outcome when the people stand together against industry giants like Elsevier! Let's boycott more publishers so that at least tax-payer funded research outcomes are accessible, free of charge!!!!!!

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

February 28, 2012

This is typical outcome when the people stand together against industry giants like Elsevier! Let's boycott more publishers so that at least tax-payer funded research outcomes are accessible, free of charge!!!!!!

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

February 29, 2012

why profit from tax-funded research? that is downright immoral

Avatar of: michael chimalizeni

michael chimalizeni

Posts: 1457

February 29, 2012

why profit from tax-funded research? that is downright immoral

Avatar of: justinmeager

justinmeager

Posts: 1

February 29, 2012

Visit This Site
Sheet Metal Fabrication

Avatar of: tddial

tddial

Posts: 1

February 29, 2012

I am a US Taxpayer.  Legislators should remember who pays their salaries and to whom they are responsible.  If taxpayers fund any part of a research activity then (a) no patents or copyrights should issue as a result, and (b) all results and unprocessed data should be available freely, similarly funded by the taxpayers.  If the researchers and their sponsoring organizations don't like the bargain, they should seek funding from non-public sources.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

February 29, 2012

Visit This Site
Sheet Metal Fabrication

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

February 29, 2012

I am a US Taxpayer.  Legislators should remember who pays their salaries and to whom they are responsible.  If taxpayers fund any part of a research activity then (a) no patents or copyrights should issue as a result, and (b) all results and unprocessed data should be available freely, similarly funded by the taxpayers.  If the researchers and their sponsoring organizations don't like the bargain, they should seek funding from non-public sources.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

March 3, 2012

RWA is a joint idea of the anti-science GOP to emulate the Dark Ages and the Demo lounging in the pocket of the publishing industry to help it steal from the public coffers in novel ways.

By fits and starts the dissemination of research is turning away from conventional channels.  The next five years will witness an increasingly visible switch to those of the web.  In response, commercial research publishers will revert to their value-added mindset -- built around penny-romance-novel reprints and pornography -- of the 19th century.  Meanwhile, _The Scientist_ will rock!

Avatar of: Mounthell

Mounthell

Posts: 26

March 3, 2012

RWA is a joint idea of the anti-science GOP to emulate the Dark Ages and the Demo lounging in the pocket of the publishing industry to help it steal from the public coffers in novel ways.

By fits and starts the dissemination of research is turning away from conventional channels.  The next five years will witness an increasingly visible switch to those of the web.  In response, commercial research publishers will revert to their value-added mindset -- built around penny-romance-novel reprints and pornography -- of the 19th century.  Meanwhile, _The Scientist_ will rock!

Avatar of: mscoyote

mscoyote

Posts: 7

March 7, 2012

I totally agree with the comments on lowering pricing structures.  As a researcher who works for a corporation but pursues other scientific interests outside, my outside research is enormously hampered by inability to afford access to scientific articles that impact my work.  As this outside area involves agriculture and animal science, the majority of what I would like access is published by government funded land grant institutions.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

March 7, 2012

I totally agree with the comments on lowering pricing structures.  As a researcher who works for a corporation but pursues other scientific interests outside, my outside research is enormously hampered by inability to afford access to scientific articles that impact my work.  As this outside area involves agriculture and animal science, the majority of what I would like access is published by government funded land grant institutions.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

May 2, 2012

We need open access to the published manuscripts, and the systematically stored anonymised raw data. In this issue of The Scientist Data Diving, we see how superficial, selective and incomplete published manuscripts can be.

Avatar of: PDarroch

PDarroch

Posts: 5

May 2, 2012

We need open access to the published manuscripts, and the systematically stored anonymised raw data. In this issue of The Scientist Data Diving, we see how superficial, selective and incomplete published manuscripts can be.

Avatar of: jytdog

jytdog

Posts: 6

May 23, 2012

If a drug candidate is invented in the course of NIH funded research, it will take millions of dollars and lots of time to turn that drug candidate into an actual drug that a doctor can prescribe.  This is incredibly risky.  The US government does not invest money to do that, and I would not want the government to invest my taxpayer dollars into such a risky thing.    It takes private money to turn ideas into products.  But people will not invest their money if there is no promise of getting a big profit -- and a patent is what ensures that.  

So -- if you want taxpayer dollars to fund research that never goes anywhere, your thought is fine.  If you want the fruits to be turned into useful products, then your thought is foolish. 

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

May 23, 2012

If a drug candidate is invented in the course of NIH funded research, it will take millions of dollars and lots of time to turn that drug candidate into an actual drug that a doctor can prescribe.  This is incredibly risky.  The US government does not invest money to do that, and I would not want the government to invest my taxpayer dollars into such a risky thing.    It takes private money to turn ideas into products.  But people will not invest their money if there is no promise of getting a big profit -- and a patent is what ensures that.  

So -- if you want taxpayer dollars to fund research that never goes anywhere, your thought is fine.  If you want the fruits to be turned into useful products, then your thought is foolish. 

Avatar of: Jeff Frelinger

Jeff Frelinger

Posts: 1457

May 25, 2012

 Without patent protection no company will ever move a drug through clinical testing because as soon as it is licensed anyone can now market it and the testing company lost all their investment.  In a sense it is worse for everyone than if the research was never done to have it all free for anyone to use.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

May 25, 2012

 Without patent protection no company will ever move a drug through clinical testing because as soon as it is licensed anyone can now market it and the testing company lost all their investment.  In a sense it is worse for everyone than if the research was never done to have it all free for anyone to use.

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