[Ip-health] Lancet: The Research Works Act: a damaging threat to science

Thirukumaran Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Mon Jan 30 09:20:07 PST 2012


The Lancet, Volume 379, Issue 9813, Page 288, 28 January 2012


The Research Works Act: a damaging threat to science

The Lancet

“Academic publishers have become the enemies of science.” So wrote Dr Mike Taylor, a scientist at the UK's University of Bristol. He, and many scientists like him, are angry that publishers are supporting the Research Works Act (RWA), a controversial Bill before the US Congress.

The RWA is co-sponsored by Republican representative Darrell Issa and the Democrat Carolyn Maloney. It was introduced to Congress in December, 2011. The Bill states that its purpose is “to ensure the continued publication and integrity of peer-reviewed research works by the private sector”. If enacted, it would prevent any Federal agency from requiring government researchers to enhance the dissemination of their taxpayer-funded research by posting it on the internet free of charge without the publisher's prior permission. This provision would overturn the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) 4-year-old public open-access policy, which requires NIH grantees to submit copies of their peer-reviewed papers to PubMed Central for posting no later than a year after journal publication. On PubMed Central, the public can freely access papers reporting publicly funded research.

This short and hastily put together legislation is not in the interests of either science or the public. Putting limitations on the dissemination of a scientist's own work is a startlingly ill-considered strategy. Science is a public enterprise. A scientific publisher's primary responsibility is to serve the research community. Their own interests—financial and reputational—depend upon the trust the public has in science. Obstructing the dissemination of publicly funded science will damage, not enhance, that trust. The RWA brings publishers and publishing into disrepute. Already, several academic publishers have spoken out against this Bill, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The Lancet also strongly opposes this Bill. Medical and scientific publishing benefits society by creating and sustaining research collaborations, identifying and giving space to emerging and neglected concepts in medicine, positively discriminating on behalf of unheard voices in health, and opposing the forces that undermine the values of our profession. The RWA does none of these. This bad Bill should be rejected.


Thiru Balasubramaniam
Geneva Representative
Knowledge Ecology International (KEI)

thiru at keionline.org

Tel: +41 22 791 6727
Mobile: +41 76 508 0997

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