Help Promote Public Access to Taxpayer-Funded Research

There is a new petition posted on the White House’s “We The People” site, which calls for mandated public access to articles arising out of taxpayer-funded research.  Please go sign it!

Your support could actually make a difference.  Petitions that receive 25,000 signatures will receive an official response from the White House.  More important, legislation requiring open access is currently stuck in Congress.  A significant response to this petition will demonstrate public support, which could make a difference in moving the bill forward.

It’s outrageous that today, when academics do research funded by government agencies such as the National Science Foundation, they are often legally prohibited by for-profit journal publishers from posting preprints of their work online. The research is only available to those who subscribe to the journals, which may cost thousands of dollars per year. If our tax dollars fund the research, why should we have to pay again to see the results?

It’s hard to see an argument against such a move.  Yet the small number of companies that dominate academic journal publishing have engaged in a fierce lobbying battle to preserve their artificial profit margins.  Scholarly journals still provide useful functions.  The reality is that “brand name” publications still matter for academic promotion and tenure.  In the age of the Internet, though, when publishing and distribution are virtually free, there’s no excuse for their high prices and access restrictions.  The National Institutes of Health adopted a rule a few years ago that required free public access to research it funded within one year of publication in a journal. For-profit journal publishers and the peer-review process they oversee didn’t collapse; they adapted just fine.  The proposed Congressional legislation would extend that rule to all other federal funding agencies.

Please take a few minutes to sign the petition on the White House site.