Tag Archives: RWA

The Cost of Knowledge: Elsevier drops support for the Research Works Act

The media echo of protesting researchers (“Cost of Knowledge”) eventually led to a phenomenal success: after Elsevier dropped its support for the Research Works Act, the bill’s co-sponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives declared the legislation dead.

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Academic publishers have become the enemies of science

A good summary of the debate and possible implications of the new US Research Works Act (RWA) by guest author Mike Taylor was published in The Guardian, 2012-01-16.

I also liked a comment suggesting to “send off your work to a presitgious, peer-review journal which has paywalls. Have your article peer-reviewed and accepted for publication. Withdraw it from the journal, and post it online yourself along with the acceptance letter. That way you get free dissemination of your work along with a rubber-stamp saying it has been peer-reviewed.”


Academic publishers have become the enemies of science

The US Research Works Act would allow publishers to line their pockets by locking publicly funded research behind paywalls

This is the moment academic publishers gave up all pretence of being on the side of scientists. Their rhetoric has traditionally been of partnering with scientists, but the truth is that for some time now scientific publishers have been anti-science and anti-publication. The Research Works Act, introduced in the US Congress on 16 December, amounts to a declaration of war by the publishers.

The USA’s main funding agency for health-related research is the National Institutes of Health, with a $30bn annual budget. The NIH has a public access policy that says taxpayer-funded research must be freely accessible online. This means that members of the public, having paid once to have the research done, don’t have to pay for it again when they read it – a wholly reasonable policy, and one with enormous humanitarian implications because it means the results of medical research are made freely available around the world.

A similar policy is now being adopted in the UK. On page 76 of the policy document Innovation and Research Strategy for Growth the government states that it is “committed to ensuring that publicly funded research should be accessible free of charge”. All of this is great for the progress of science, which has always been based on the free flow of ideas, the sharing of data, and standing on the shoulders of giants.

But what’s good for science isn’t necessarily good for science publishers, whose interests have drifted far out of alignment with ours. Under the old model, publishers become the owners of the papers they publish, holding the copyright and selling copies around the world – a useful service in pre-internet days. But now that it’s a trivial undertaking to make a paper globally available, there is no reason why scientists need yield copyright to publishers.

[…] view full text at The Guardian

If passed, the Research Works Act (RWA) would prohibit the NIH’s public access policy and anything similar enacted by other federal agencies, locking publicly funded research behind paywalls. The result would be an ethical disaster: preventable deaths in developing countries, and an incalculable loss for science in the USA and worldwide. The only winners would be publishing corporations such as Elsevier (£724m profits on revenues of £2b in 2010 – an astounding 36% of revenue taken as profit).

Since Elsevier’s obscene additional profits would be drained from America to the company’s base in the Netherlands if this bill were enacted, what kind of American politician would support it? The RWA is co-sponsored by Darrell Issa (Republican, California) and Carolyn B. Maloney (Democrat, New York). In the 2012 election cycle, Elsevier and its senior executives made 31 donations to representatives: of these, two went to Issa and 12 to Maloney, including the largest individual contribution.

[…] view full text at The Guardian

The bottom line for scientists is that many publishers have now made themselves our enemies instead of the allies they once were. Elsevier’s business does not make money by publishing our work, but by doing the exact opposite: restricting access to it. We must not be complicit in their newest attempt to cripple the progress of science.

Dr Mike Taylor is a research associate at the Department of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol