The Conyers bill and open access

Allie sent this blog post my way about the Conyers bill, about which Lawrence Lessig has been quite critical. At the moment the NIH requires all publications from research it funds to be posted (e.g. on PubMed) so that the public can read them. This makes sense because the taxpayers paid for this research.

What Conyers wants is to do is end the requirement for free and public dissemination of research. Why? Lessig says he’s in the pocket of the publishing industry. From the standpoint of the taxpayer and a researcher, it’s hard to see a justification for this amendment. Conyers gives a procedural reason for the change, namely that “this so-called ‘open access’ policy was not subject to open hearings, open debate or open amendment.” So essentially he wants to go back to the status quo ante and then have a debate, rather than have a debate about whether we want to go back to the status quo ante.

From my perspective, spending Congressional time to do the equivalent of a Wikipedia reversion is a waste — if we want to debate whether to change the open access rules, let’s debate that now rather than changing the rules twice. I think we should expand open access to include the NSF too. It’s a bit tricky though, since most of my work is published (and publishable) within the IEEE. The professional societies could be a great ally in the open-access movement, but as Phil Davis points out, the rhetoric on both sides tends to leave them out.

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