Research Works Act and Free Access to Journal Articles
The Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009 established the National Institutes of Medicine’s public access policy requiring that:
“…all investigators funded by the NIH submit or have submitted for them to the National Library of Medicine’s PubMed Central an electronic version of their final, peer-reviewed manuscripts upon acceptance for publication, to be made publicly available no later than 12 months after the official date of publication…”
(Division F, Sec. 217)
As a result, the public has been able to read current NIH funded research, free of charge, on the National Library of Medicine website.
However, at the end of 2011, a bill was introduced in the House of Representatives, the Research Works Act, which would give private publishers the ability to restrict the National Library of Medicine from disseminating federal funded private sector research articles on the National Library of Medicine website. Librarians, patient advocacy groups and researchers are opposed to the bill which is backed by the Association of American Publishers, who claim that the value added to a finished article, such as peer-review, must be compensated. Researchers argue that the public is paying twice—funding the research and accessing the results.
Generally speaking, open access to scholarly content will continue to gain supporters from the library end of the transaction, especially as library budgets shrink and serials inflation continues to eat into what remains. The most significant force behind this trend maybe the scientists themselves. Thomas Lin, in a New York Times article entitled Cracking Open the Scientific Process, finds some scientists refusing to conduct peer review for or submit papers to commercial journals, calling such contributions free labor. Some see online scientific publishing as a vast untapped market.