University News

U. condemns bill limiting public research access

By
News Editor

The University has publicly condemned a bill that would require publishers to approve open access to government-funded research.

Currently, if research receives any funding from the National Institutes of Health, it must be made publicly available via an index maintained by the National Library of Medicine. Studies published in subscription-based journals must become public within one year of initial publication. The Research Works Act would require consent from subscription-based journals before studies they have published could be made publicly available.

The University condemned the legislation for “a whole variety of reasons,” said Provost Mark Schlissel P’15. He cited the limitations it could impose on community access to student and faculty research as the most troubling part of the proposal.

“It’s a bill that would benefit for-profit publishers at the expense of the scholarly community and the public by imposing an increased barrier to access to the product of our research,” Schlissel said.

Faculty members are not currently required to publish their research in open journals, Schlissel said. If the bill passed, members of the University community who did not subscribe to particular journals would have difficulty accessing the studies published both at Brown and at other institutions.

Schlissel, whose own research in the biological sciences is funded by NIH grants, said it would be “disappointing” if someone had to subscribe to a journal to read his findings.

“It’s a matter of public policy,” he said. “As a country, we’d like to lower the barriers to the access to research.”

The bill has also been condemned by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of California and Oxford University presses, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported last month. But it has received support from the Association of American Publishers.

“At a time when job retention, United States exports, scholarly excellence, scientific integrity and digital copyright protection are all priorities, the Research Works Act ensures the sustainability of this industry,” said Tom Allen, president and chief executive officer of the Association of American Publishers, in a release from the organization.

Clyde Briant, vice president for research, initially brought the bill to Schlissel’s attention. Schlissel told President Ruth Simmons he recommended condemning the bill, an action Simmons told him she supported.

The University is currently considering a policy that would make all research done at Brown freely accessible to the public, The Herald reported last October. Such policies are already in place at MIT and Princeton.