Announcing the Alliance for Taxpayer Access to Research

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Tue, 24 Aug 2004 19:54:37 +0100

             The Breadth and Basis of the Need for Open Access

I am forwarding the press release below concerning an excellent new
alliance of tax-payers for open access spear-headed by SPARC. This
alliance is focused on biomedical research that is funded by NIH and is
based on its potential direct interest and usefulness to the tax-payer.

This direct lay interest in and benefit from biomedical research is an
extremely important and valid aspect of some forms of research -- not just
biomedical research, but also other areas of research that might be
of direct relevance to the tax-paying public that supports it: general
public access to the research output in certain areas of biology,
physical sciences, engineering and technology, social sciences, and even
some forms of humanities research could confer great direct benefits.

But let us not forget that most research is highly specialized and often
technical, and written for the use of other specialized researchers. This
of course does not mean that it should not all be openly accessible to
the general public as well! But the benefits -- to the tax-payer --
of making that research open access go far, far beyond the benefits from
the tax-payer's being able to consult it directly:

For the reason the tax-payer funds research is in order to generate
research progress. Most research doesn't turn into something that can
be applied and used for public benefit immediately after it is done
and reported! Research progress is cumulative and collaborative, and
often slow, and it is *researchers* who most need immediate access to
one another's output. It is the tax-payer who benefits if researchers
do have this access to one another's research output, and the tax-payer
(and research progress itself) that loses if researchers do not have
that access to one another's research output.

If research were funded only to be performed, written up, and then put
into a desk drawer aftwerward, then there would be nothing to show for
the tax-payer's investment. That is why we have the mandate to "publish
or perish." It is not enough to fund research, conduct the research and
write it up. The write-up then has to be peer-reviewed by a journal,
and then be made *public* though *publication* in that journal, so that
other researchers (and, when it is of direct relevance and interest, also
the general public) can access and use its findings. Tax-payers use
some funded research directly in order to improve their lives; but
researchers can use even funded research that does not directly improve our
lives to build on that research and eventually advance it to where it
does improve our lives.

So in weighing the purpose and importance of open access, it is critical
to realize that most research needs to be made openly accessible for
reasons *other* than those in the special case where it might be of direct
interest and relevance to the tax-payer to access, read and use it. Open
access is needed not just for biomedical research, but for all research --
all 2,500,000 yearly articles published in the world's 24,000 peer-reviewed
journals, across all fields -- biomedical and nonbiomedical, scientific
and scholarly, pure and applied.

So in reading the press release below, please do not conclude that open
access is needed only for biomedical research, let alone only for biomedical
research funded only by NIH! The urgency of having access to research that
might be relevant to our health and that we have paid to have conducted
is a dramatic example of one rationale for open access, for one (small)
portion of the world's scientific and scholarly research output. But it
is only the tip of the iceberg!

Stevan Harnad

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 24 Aug 2004 13:06:47 -0400
From: Rick Johnson <>
To: SPARC Institutional Repositories Discussion List <>

For Immediate Release
Tuesday, August 24, 2004

SPARC Contact:
John D'Ignazio, 202-296-2296 x121

Public Interest Advocates Join Forces to Support Congress and NIH

Washington, DC (August 24, 2004) An unprecedented coalition of public
interest groups today announced the formation of the Alliance for
Taxpayer Access. The Alliance will urge the National Institutes of
Health as well as Congress to ensure that peer-reviewed articles on
taxpayer-funded research at NIH become fully accessible and available
on line and at no extra cost to the American public.

The Alliance formation precedes the public interest meeting slated for
Tuesday, August 31 where NIH will receive input on how to improve
public access to the results of NIH-funded biomedical research.

The Alliance is an informal coalition of libraries, patient and health
policy advocates, and other stakeholders who support reforms that will
make publicly funded biomedical research accessible to the public.
Details and FAQs on the Alliance may be found at

Today the vast majority of research funded with public dollars is
available only through increasingly costly journal subscriptions (often
costing thousands of dollars annually for a single journal),
institutional licenses (more than a million dollars annually for many
universities), or per article purchases (as much as $30 per article).
Alliance supporters believe the current system of subscription-based
access to scientific research is economically unsustainable and
effectively impedes the dissemination and use of research that has been
paid for with public dollars.

Alliance supporter Sharon Terry, President and CEO of the Genetic
Alliance, said, "This consumer-centered approach is a long-overdue
means by which to enhance public health education, speed the
translation of genetic advances into quality, affordable health care,
and inform and empower patients in their health care decisions."

"It is sometimes suggested that this information is not available to
the "homemaker in Iowa" because she is ill equipped to deal with this
information. We know, from our 600 members - disease-specific advocacy
organizations . that the homemaker has many resources to help her use
that information. This access is critical; we know first-hand that
clinicians are unable to keep up with information on 6000 rare
diseases, and patients must be the bridge to new knowledge."

Acknowledging the key role of individuals volunteering for clinical
tests, Mitchell Warren, Executive Director of the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy
Coalition, said that, "Open access is consistent with cornerstone
principles of respect for persons when conducting research on human
subjects and will contribute to the willingness of individuals to
participate in subsequent research because they have full, shared,
knowledge of results."

"In the digital age, with the extraordinary public benefits of
cutting-edge research, it is counter-productive for there to be costly
barriers preventing the fullest possible availability of quality
information about current research findings,' said Rick Johnson,
spokesman for the group. Johnson also serves as director of the
Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), a member
of the new Alliance. 'We agree with leaders at NIH and on Capitol Hill
that the status quo is unacceptable when most American taxpayers do not
have access to the reports on biomedical research conducted with U.S.
Government funds."

Barbara Redman, Dean of the College of Nursing at Wayne State
University, echoed concerns of educators within the Alliance: "Access
to emerging NIH-funded medical research is invaluable to the transfer
of knowledge in every instructional setting. Faculty and students
alike benefit from access to biomedical reports in all fields, and we
applaud NIH leadership in furthering this initiative."

Dr. Richard Roberts, 1993 Nobel Laureate in medicine and currently with
New England Biolabs, added his support: "Open access to the scientific
literature is the single most important advance that we can make in the
distribution of research results to scientists and the public alike. I
find that a majority of my fellow scientists and Nobel Laureates agree
that this new initiative is groundbreaking, long overdue and will
ensure that we all can read about the results of our government's
support of research. I am heartened that taxpayers representing broad
stakeholders in this issue have joined forces to endorse the principle
of open access to the scientific literature we produce through our
investment of public dollars. This is good for science and good for
the American public."

Members of the Alliance for Taxpayer Access, at formation (in
alphabetical order), include:

AIDS Action Baltimore
AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition
American Association of Law Libraries
American Library Association
American Medical Student Association
Arthritis Foundation
Asian and Pacific Islander American Health Forum
Association of Academic Health Sciences Libraries
Association of College & Research Libraries
Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs
Association of Research Libraries
Association of Southeastern Research Libraries
Autosomal Recessive Polycystic Kidney Disease and Congenital Hepatic
Fibrosis Alliance
Boston College Libraries
Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation
Coalition for Heritable Disorders of Connective Tissue
Colorado State University Libraries
Conquer Fragile X Syndrome
Down Syndrome Treatment and Research Foundation
Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered
Genetic Alliance
International Mosaic Down Syndrome Association
IsoDicentric 15 Exchange, Advocacy & Support
Medical Library Association
National Alliance for Autism Research
National Coalition for PKU & Allied Disorders
National Fragile X Foundation
National Tay-Sachs & Allied Diseases Association, Inc.
New England Biolabs
Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy
Prader-Willi Syndrome Association
Public Knowledge
PXE International
Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC)
Spina Bifida Association of America
Tourette Syndrome Association
University of Connecticut Libraries
Wayne State University College of Nursing
Received on Tue Aug 24 2004 - 19:54:37 BST

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