The senate will vote during the week beginning October 15 on a bill that changes the NIH Open Access deposit policy from a request (which has generated about 5% compliance) to a mandate. This would be a leap forward for OA and science, not only in the US but throughout the world. If you’re a US resident, please take a few minutes to write to your Senators in support of this bill. (Letters should arrive by close of business Oct 12.)
The American Library Association has made it trivially easy to contact your congresscritters about this: go to their action alert, fill in your zip code, write a brief letter and hit send. For help in composing a letter, see Peter Suber’s collection of talking points, background and other resources. Below is the letter I sent.
I am a research scientist and (pending final approval) about to become a US citizen. I have worked in the US for four years, having held an NIH T32 postdoctoral fellowship for two of those years. As a scientist and as a concerned member of the US public, I am writing to urge you to approve without change that portion of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s FY 2008 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill which directs the NIH to change its policies from a request to a mandatory requirement for free, timely public access to NIH funded research.
The US, through the NIH, invests roughly $30 billion in medical research every year. While the return on this investment is significant, it is far lower than it should be — and mandatory Open Access is the answer.
Open Access maximizes research efficiency (and thus the return on research investment) by removing obstacles to the acquisition of new results by researchers (1), and is essential for realizing the vast and virtually untapped potential of automated data- and text-mining (2, 3). Traditional scientific publishing sees the taxpayer pay for the research, pay to have it published, and then pay again to access it (or for the same researchers to access it!) through subscriptions to privately owned journals (4). Legislators have a practical, legal and moral obligation to end this inefficiency and waste.
In the two years since its instigation, the current voluntary policy has resulted in less than 5% of NIH funded research being deposited in the National Library of Medicine’s public archive; a mandate is clearly necessary.
Finally, please do not be taken in by dishonest, self-interested arguments put forward by the traditional publishing lobby. Open Access is entirely compatible with all existing copyright schemes, will have no negative effect on peer review and does not involve any form of censorship or government interference in research or in publishing (5). Moreover, the NIH estimates (6) that implementation of the mandatory Open Access policy will cost less than 10% of the $30 million/year the NIH already pays directly to publishers in the form of page charges.
Open Access is necessary if US research is to flourish as it should, and mandatory deposit in the NLM or an equivalent archive is necessary to support Open Access to publicly funded research. Please approve without change that portion of the appropriations bill which changes the language of the NIH deposit policy from voluntary to mandatory.