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Re: Open access to federally funded research -- growing momentum

I am very troubled by the Washington Post article. Mr. Weiss, a 
once-independent-minded reporter who seems now to do the heavy 
lifting for the open access movement, once again presents deeply 
biased and logic-impaired support for open access.

For the holes in logic, consider this statement: "...advocates 
point to the growing number of journals that have adopted 
business plans that allow them to offer their contents free of 
charge. Some charge fees to researchers for publishing their work 
instead of charging for subscriptions or page views. Researchers 
can pay the fees with grant money -- potentially cost-neutral for 
the government..."

"Paying the fees with grant money" is "potentially cost-neutral 
for the government"? Emphasis, apparently, on "potential," as in 
"George Bush's tax cuts have the potential to reduce the federal 

Even more suspect is the claim that many of these publications 
have what could by any stretch of the imagination be called 
"business plans." In the Kaufman-Wills Group study, "The Facts 
about Open Access," among full open access journals, 41% operated 
at a loss, 24% broken even, and 35% made a surplus. More than 
half of OA journals were operating in part with volunteer 
labor--hardly a sustainable or reliable commodity over the long 
run. More alarming were some of the comments among these 
publishers about their so-called "business models." which 
included these: "We have no business model," and "What do you 
mean by business model?" Asked about the purpose in publishing, 
one open access publisher said "Changing the World" and "Peace of 
Mind, advance science for free."

Is it too much to ask that a model being touted as the future of 
scholarly publishing have some prospect of being financially 
sustainable, absent a government bail-out?

As for the bias, it's laced throughout the piece. "Advocates say 
taxpayers should not have to pay hundreds of dollars for 
subscriptions to scientific journals to see the results of 
research they already have paid for." Neither PLoS, NIH, nor any 
vaguely knowledgable person on Capitol Hill tries to advance OA 
in terms of benefits to patients, because it has next to none. 
And who ever said that patients should pay "hundreds of dollars 
for subscriptions to scientific journals"?

And then there the way Weiss describes "publishers," who seem to 
occupy a moral ground somewhere between Hitler and Saddam 
Hussein. Apparently, we're always "fighting" against access to 
life-saving information: We "fought the "public access" movement 
for years," we've created a group to " to fight the public-access 
movement," and "the publishing consortium is fighting back with 
data of its own." Many of the publishers I know aren't fighting 
anything, except for the preservation of some rational approach 
to publishing.

The bottom line is that this debate is served poorly by this kind 
of journalism. For OA true believers, Weiss's article is a nice 
slab of red meat. For any person who really cares about the 
future of publishing and public access to information, it's junk 
food. A serious debate deserves far more serious thought than the 
Washington Post delivers.

Peter Banks
American Diabetes Association
FAX 703/683-2890
Email: pbanks@diabetes.org

>>> Ray.English@oberlin.edu 03/10/06 4:27 PM >>>

Today's Washington Post has a great story on the developing 
political momentum for changing US government policy to require 
government funded health researchers to make the results of their 
research openly available in the Internet.  The story describes 
recent developments that are moving in the direction of a change 
in the voluntary NIH policy -- a change that would make deposit 
in PubMed Central a requirement and mandate open access within 
six months of publication.

The story also mentions two Senate bills.  The first, which has 
been introduced by Senators Joe Lieberman (D-CT) and Thad Cochran 
(R-MS) is the American Center for CURES Act, which has a 
provision requiring open access (within six months of publication 
in peer-review journals) to research sponsored by Health and 
Human Services Agencies (NIH, CDC, etc. ).  The story also 
mentions a bill being considered by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) 
that would require public access to government-funded research 
across a broad array of U.S. government agencies.  Although the 
story doesn't mention it, Cornyn's bill is supposed to be 
introduced soon.

The title of the story is: Government Health Researchers Pressed 
to Share Data at No Charge and it's available at this URL:


Note that access to the Post is free, but need to be registered first
before gaining access.

Ray English
Director of Libraries
Oberlin College