The Research Works Act, Part 2
The conflict ignited by the December, 2011 introduction of the Research Works Act, H.R 3699, by U.S. Representatives Darrell Issa (R-Ca) and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), has morphed into an international protest of one the most powerful STM journal publishers in the world, Elsevier Inc.
The Research Works Act prohibits all federal agencies from putting any privately published articles into an online database, even federally funded databases, if there is any editorial or peer review contribution to the piece by a private publisher. The Association of American Publishers, a trade group that has opposed free public access to NIH funded research on the website of the National Library of Medicine, is a major backer of the bill, along with the Copyright Alliance and others.
Both organizations argue in favor of the “significant value added by the private-sector publisher,” including that of contributors who are not funded by the government. The Copyright Alliance explains their position on their website: “…it is not fair to other investors in the research, if there are any it arbitrarily limits the value of the copyright in the article for the author and publisher, and harms the publisher’s investments in ensuring a quality publication; and, it results in reduced incentives for both these groups to publish peer-reviewed articles…”
Meanwhile, on Jan. 21, 2012, Timothy Gowers of Cambridge University called for a boycott of Reed Elsevier, which describes itself as “the world’s leading provider of scientific and medical information and scientists, health professionals and students worldwide.” Establishing the website, The Cost of Knowledge, Gowers now has over 2,500 professors who have signed a “won’t publish, won’t referee, won’t do editorial work for Elsevier STM journals because of the company’s business practices with respect to its STM journals.” Protestors have spoken out against Elsevier’s prices and bundling of subscriptions. Libraries have also questioned some practices. But its Elsevier’s support of the Research Works Act that has galvanized members of the scientific community into an international protest. Law libraries have an interest as well. LexisNexis Legal and Professional is owned by Elsevier.