Petitioning the President on Open Access

It has been quite a year so far for open access. And the momentum is still building.

First came the Elsevier Boycott, triggered by an angry reaction to the publisher’s support for the US Research Works Act, which would have undermined the open access policy of the National Institutes of Health.

The Act has been withdrawn but the debate stirred up by the boycott continues to play out in the blogosphere and the press.

Then, at the beginning of this month, David Willetts declared that the UK government is committed to the “principle of public access to publicly-funded research results”. We await the report of the Finch committee which is has been charged with figuring out how this is to be achieved.

Willetts acknowledged that the UK cannot go it alone on open access so it was heartening to read last week that the European Union is likely to require researchers that it funds in future to make their results freely available.

Please Sign the Petition

And today sees the launch of a new campaign that is petitioning the Obama administration to extend open access mandates beyond the NIH to all large federal funders of research.

The petition reads:


Require free, timely access over the Internet to journal articles arising from taxpayer-funded research.

We believe in the power of the Internet to foster innovation, research, and education. Requiring the published results of taxpayer-funded research to be posted on the Internet in human and machine readable form would provide access to patients and caregivers, students and their teachers, researchers, entrepreneurs, and other taxpayers who paid for the research. Expanding access would speed the research process and increase the return on our investment in scientific research.

The highly successful Public Access Policy of the National Institutes of Health proves that this can be done without disrupting the research process, and we urge President Obama to act now to implement open access policies for all federal agencies that fund scientific research.

This could make a real difference. If the campaign gets 25,000 signatures in 30 days, the Administration has to issue an official response. The campaign organisers are keen to surpass this target quickly because they sense they may be pushing at an open door.

And you can help. It is hoped that most signatories will be US citizens (those are the political realities) but foreigners can also sign.

Please do. It is only by concerted world-wide action that open access can be made to work.

Please note: to sign the petition, you much first create an account, click on the link in the verification email that you will receive (which contains your password), and then sign in to the web-site to finally add your signature to the petition. (I missed the last step first time round.) When you’re done, you will see your first name and the initial of your surname appear in one of the signatory boxes.

For more information please consult the access2research website or the campaign Facebook page. If you would like to tweet support, please use the #OAMonday hashtag.


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6 Responses to Petitioning the President on Open Access

  1. Pingback: Ninth Level Ireland » Blog Archive » Petitioning the President on Open Access

  2. Not sure if many are aware that one of the main people behind the access2research initiative and petition is Mike Rossner, the Executive Director of Rockefeller University Press (HT Heather Piwowar) .

    RUP is a great example of a subscription-based publisher with a successful and sustainable public access policy. It has since 2001 made the content of its three journals freely available 6 months after publication. But Rossner is also realistic. Although he supports the principle of mandated public access, he has expressed reservations about having a single embargo period (e.g. the 6 months stipulated in FRPAA), outlined in a letter included in the interview with Richard Poynder earlier this year

    “The AAP and AAUP use a one-size-does-not-fit-all argument to oppose FRPAA because the drafted legislation calls for all large federal agencies to mandate public access six months after publication. Although it can be argued that a six-month embargo period may not be suitable for all disciplines covered by FRPAA, this is not grounds to oppose the legislation altogether. It should be supported in principle and could be modified during Congressional review to provide the flexibility for each agency to choose its own embargo period.”

    In the transition period until open access is widespread and operating in a sustainable way, consideration should be given to variable embargo periods across disciplines.

    Mike Rossner has also played a leading role in helping ensure quality and integrity of data in publications. All researchers and labs – if you haven’t seen the seminal paper on acceptable and inappropriate image manipulation co-authored by him when he was managing editor of The Journal of Cell Biology, go get it! It presents some simple general guidelines for the proper handling of digital image data: What’s in a picture? The temptation of image manipulation, .

    Irene Hames #1984

    • Stephen says:

      Thanks Irene – I will certainly follow those links. I’d be interested to know the arguments for variation of the embargo period. RCUK seems to want to stick to a fixed period, as I discovered from my reading of the latest notes from the Finch Committee.

  3. Apologies, Stephen, for the delay in replying. I’ve been trying to find some source material about this for you but haven’t been able to track anything down. Basically, as things stand now, journals in fast-moving fields, especially where experiments can be done very quickly, can afford to have short embargo periods because the articles need to be read as a soon as they are out. So making them free after 6 months, as the RUP journals are, doesn’t have an unduly negative impact on subscription income and the journals and readers both benefit. But for those journals in fields where the time frames are longer, making material available free too early could jeopardise journal viability. At the journal I used to be managing editor (cell+molecular-biology based) we made all content available on a rolling 12-month basis, and all special themed issues immediately on publication, and this worked very well.

    I should stress that I am a proponent of open access – the #1984 in my comment above is my number in the ‘we the people’ petition (just realised it could be misinterpreted as a hashtag to the book!) – but I have concerns that there is a tendency for things to be seen as black or white, and a danger that much that is very valuable will be lost. Journals are part of a complex scientific ecosystem and they and other players have to be given the chance to adapt to an open access world, to identify how to transition and to put this into effect. Also how to change what they do/contribute as the way research and its communication evolves. Some won’t be able to do this but that will be part of the evolution.

    • Stephen says:

      Thanks Irene. Your final paragraph is very important I think. In the UK at least, I think there is a strong appreciation that we have to work constructively with the publishing industry — that seems to have been the substance of the Finch committee deliberations (and came out of Willetts’ recent speech). I still have some sense that publishers (some at any rate) want to keep control of the agenda; that was the impression I got from Graham Taylor at the debate at Imperial last week. But I’m afraid they are going to have to live with an academic-side push for the time being! 😉

  4. Pingback: Continental drift: important open access developments in the UK and US | Reciprocal Space

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