Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Momentum for Open Access

Inside Higher Ed:

Last year, a proposal in Congress to require all federally supported research to be placed online, freely available, attracted considerable attention and debate — and ultimately stalled.

This year, a measure that is narrower — it would apply only to research supported by the National Institutes of Health — appears within reach of passage. ...

While supporters of the “open access” movement continue to want a similar provision to apply to all federally supported research, they view the prospect of a win on NIH-supported research as a significant breakthrough. ...Passing the NIH bill would show that this is “sound and prudent public policy” and that “the sky won’t fall.”

But Patricia S. Schroeder, president of the Association of American Publishers, said that her group’s opposition to the legislation was not lessened at all by its being limited this year to the NIH. Large publishers will be fine, but she predicted that the bill could eventually kill some small, nonprofit publishers that play key roles in advancing research. “It’s the law of unintended consequences and to us that’s very sad,” Schroeder said.

The open access movement comes from a combination of philosophical and economic views. Proponents argue that since the federal government pays for much of the research that ends up in journals, and colleges and universities support that research by hiring faculty members and creating laboratories, it is unfair for the results of that research to be available only to those who can afford high subscription fees for journals.

The movement has taken off in recent years at a time when libraries have felt intense budget pressure as the Web seemingly made it possible to share information at minimal cost. ...

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