Sunday, September 21, 2008

Review -- "Congress's copyright fight puts open access science in peril"

Direct link to article:

The worst part about research papers: eve
ry past study and journal can be conveniently accessed through online science journals provided by your school's proxy. Anyone who has a computer and internet can now work in the comfort of his/her room without having to go from one library to another hunting primary articles down, caveman-style.
The real worst part about research papers: No one really has an excuse for not having their paper completed on time. :|

Did you find the catch? One only has access to these papers, articles, etc through the school's subscription. Current debate in Congress centers around why private databases should charge for people to read about publicly funded research. Advocates of this so called "open access" to scientific research scored a point just this year when Congress has passed legislation forcing NIH (National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Government's top headquarters for biomed research) to make their research and work available to the public. However, publication companies are now fighting back, essentially moving for research to be eligible for protection under copyright.
As of right now, all federall
y funded experiments and research belong to the researchers and researchers' institutions from which the experiments were conducted. The new NIH policy reserves the right for the researchers they sponsor to place their work in the institute's own publication database. This database is hosted by PubMed Central; PMC.
The pseudo-compromise that currently exists between supporters of open access and publishers is that research turned into the PMC isn't released to the public until a year after it's submitted date. These papers don't have to contain the images and formatting originally drawn by the publication company. Basically, publishers aren't required to detail every component of their research; they essentially only have to let us know they've conducted research. For the most part though, many publishers have grown to accept this 1-year hold policy as fair for both sides, allowing for the whole of their work to be accessible to the public.
There are, however, publishers who a
re still adamantly against open access. They have rallied together, demanding to be paid by the PMC for submitting their work. The negative reaction is easy totally understandable; publication of research is overwhelmingly expensive if one takes into account the costs of editting, formatting, and peer reviewing. Others have formed lobbying groups against said legislation, and all other open access movements.
This is where I think topic of our FSEM is made relevant: copyright
laws keeps articles printed in theses academic journals restricted to an audience that pays a subscription to read them. Although science, as has been mentioned in an earlier blog about the Large Hadron Collider, is a form of art that means to serve the well-being of an entire population, researchers/scientists/scholarly journals need to be paid too! Right?
The intregration of free academic publishing into business is nothing simple. No free lunch and all that.
Anyway, these grudging researchers are getting their say in Congress as well. Congressman John Conyers proposed a new bill in the House which basically ends NIH's mandate for all its research to be open access.
What happened? Well, the Judiciary Subcommit
tees for the Internet, Intellectual Property, and Courts committee reviewed the bill and made a correlation between the copyright policies of publicly funded research with and the copyright policies of self-marketing products (e.g.: music, entertainment etc). Those overseeing this hearing speculated the contradiction of pushing for open acces of copyrighted scientific material, when the rest of the government is pushing for the enforcement of copyright laws in other areas. Which is a good point: it's understandable for researchers to bitch a little about open access and "not respecting copyright terms" etc. In all honesty though, I think open access will be here to stay in the public sector, because of a better point: the public really does pay for almost all of the publishing process. What you pay for is what you own! (Sometimes).

I never want to write about this again.

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