U.S. House hearing on public access

On March 29, the U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee on investigations and oversight held a hearing to address proposed public access models and their effects on scientific research. Five witnesses from scientific societies and university groups testified before the committee to provide insight on whether or not research papers that result from federal funding should be freely available to the public.

Two years ago, the Scholarly Publishing Roundtable brought together a group of scientific publishers, librarians and university officials to discuss the issue of public access for research funded by federal agencies. The group reached a compromise, recommending that all federal agencies develop their own public access policies to make available publications from federally funded research. The National Institutes of Health’s public-access policy, implemented in 2008, states that peer-reviewed articles based on NIH-funded research must be made publically available one year after their initial publication date.

In his opening statement, subcommittee chairman Paul Broun, R-Ga., emphasized the complicated nature of the issue of public access, acknowledging the need for increased transparency on federally-funded research, while also protecting publishers and scientific societies whose business models depend on revenue generated from journal subscriptions.

At the hearing, the witnesses representing scientific societies were concerned about a federal mandate that all federal agencies adopt the NIH-style public access policy, fearing that journal subscriptions would be canceled if publications were made freely available, even with a year embargo period.  However Elliot Maxwell, from the Center for Economic Development, highlighted a recent study that showed the NIH public access policy did not harm publishers, while also granting the public greater access to federally-funded research.

The Office of Science and Technology Policy will be releasing a report on public access in the upcoming weeks. Read the press release from the investigations and oversight subcommittee hearing here.

ASBMB supports the NIH public access policy and in January submitted a response to the OSTP request for information on open access.

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