Protect the NIH Public Access Mandate From the Conyers Copyright Caricature

From: Stevan Harnad <amsciforum_at_GMAIL.COM>
Date: Mon, 9 Feb 2009 06:40:59 -0500

The publisher anti-Open-Access lobby is trying to use a time when the
economy is down and the head of NIH is out to slip through
a Bill that would undo one of the most positive things Congress has
done for science: the NIH Public Access Act, which requires
NIH-funded research to be made freely accessible to the public that
paid for it.

The Conyers Bill is now trying to overturn the Public Access Act on
the basis of copyright double-talk that would be ludicrous if it were
not so ominous: 

The published reports of publicly funded research findings are given
away by their researcher-authors free for all in order to maximize
their usage and impact. The Conyers Bill proposes to "protect" their
work in exactly the same way it protects proprietary Disney cartoons
or How-To bestsellers, produced and sold by their authors to maximize
their royalty income: The tendentiously misnamed "Fair Copyright in
Research Works Act" would rescind NIH's requirement that the results
of the research it funds with taxpayer money should be deposited,
free for all, on the Web.

The Conyers Bill's copyright arguments -- almost transparently
contrived and arbitrary -- have been decisively refuted point for
point by Law Professor Michael Carroll and other experts, just as all
the other far-fetched, self-serving arguments marshalled by the
publisher anti-OA lobby have (despite the hiring of "pit-bull" Eric
Dezenhall as public-relations consultant)
been repeatedly rebutted each time they were unleashed.

      It is time not only for OA advocates, but the general
      public -- both US and worldwide (because US OA policy has
      vast global implications) -- to make their voices heard
      in favor of the NIH Public Access Policy and against the
      Conyers Bill's Caricature of Copyright. TheAlliance for
      Taxpayer Access is hard at work to save the NIH Mandate;
      please consult them on how you can help. You can
      also express your support for mandating more OA rather
      than less, to President Obama.

This would also be an opportune time to shore up the NIH Mandate
itself with a small but important change in implementational detail
that will not only increase its reach and make it a far better model
for emulation worldwide, but it will also strengthen it against
mischievous attempts like the Conyers Bill to undermine it:
      (1) Open Access is Open Access regardless of where on the
      Web a paper is freely accessible.

      (2) Currently, the NIH mandate specifically stipulates
      deposit in a Central (3rd-party) Repository (CR), PubMed

      (3) The majority of journals already formally endorse OA
      self-archiving by authors, but most endorse it only in
      the author's ownInstitutional Repository (IR) rather than
      a Central (3rd-party) Repository (CR). (This is because
      they fear that endorsing deposit in 3rd party CRs would
      open the door to free-riding on their content by rival

      (4) Apart from being immune to the
      rival-publisher/free-rider objection, IR deposit is also
      distributed across all the universities and research
      institutions in the world: That makes it a much more
      diffuse, hence difficult target for the publisher anti-OA
      publisher lobby than PubMed Central, NIH or Congress.

      (5) IRs also make it possible to deposit papers as
      "Closed Access" rather than Open Access during any
      publisher embargo period. The Closed-Access paper's
      metadata (authors, title, journal, date, abstract, etc.)
      are freely accessible and searchable webwide, and link to
      an IR Button that allows individual users to email the
      author an automatic request for an individual copy for
      research use with just one click, which the author can in
      turn fulfill with just one click, almost instantaneously.
      Over 60% of journals already endorse immediate OA for IR
      deposits. The Button provides "Almost OA" for the rest,
      to tide over researcher needs during any embargo.

      (6) Hence if the NIH deposit mandate specifically
      stipulated deposit in the author's IR, rather than
      deposit in PubMed Central, it could harvest the deposit's
      metadata to PubMed Central, harvest the full-text after
      the allowable embargo, and moot most of the copyright
      issues, while indirectly providing "Almost OA" even
      during the embargo (via the Request-a-Copy Buttons of the
      global network of IRs distributed across the planet).

      (7) This small change in implementational detail in NIH's
      funder mandate would also motivate and reinforce the
      adoption of institutional mandates at all NIH's fundees'
      institutions, which would in turn help reinforce and
      protect the NIH mandate (from Conyers-like attacks) as
      well as extending it to all institutional research
      output, funded and unfunded.

      (8) Stipulating IR deposit rather than CR deposit will
      also make the NIH funder mandate a model that can be
      emulated worldwide, globalizing the adoption of both
      funder and institutional mandates and helping to usher in
      universal OA at long last.

Stevan Harnad
American Scientist Open Access Forum
Received on Mon Feb 09 2009 - 11:43:06 GMT

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