COMMENTARY | The National Institute of Health Public Access Policy is under attack by Rep. Carolyn Maloney and Rep. Darrell Issa. The Research Works Act proposed by the representatives will eliminate free access to taxpayer-funded studies, according to Wired. I think it is appalling to force taxpayers to pay twice for the privilege of reading studies that they have supported.
The Research Works Act could severely restrict the public's ability to view research papers and studies that have been funded by the National Institute of Health. The NIH Public Access Policy forces all taxpayer-funded research to become available as free access within 12 months of publication on PubMed. This ensures that the public is able to view taxpayer supported research in a free format.
To understand the motivation of Maloney and Issa, it helps to trace their contribution patterns. Evolutionary biologist Michael Eisen has found Maloney and Issa have received money from Reed Elsevier and Elsevier is a member of the Association of American Publishers. I think this is a perfect example of traditional publishing organizations trying to limit free access to information.
Oddly, Issa has criticized the Stop Online Piracy Act that threatens many websites and freedoms, and he has mentioned his own background in technology. Issa also supports the OPEN Act that defends an open Internet. It is interesting to see how contributions can change a person's mind.
How will the elimination of the NIH Public Access Policy affect the public? If the Research Works Act becomes a reality, you can expect to pay $25 to $30 for access to a research paper. It will cut off a valuable source of information for schools, scientists, medical professionals and anyone interested in learning more about research.
I understand the Association of American Publishers wants to preserve traditional publishing methods and the industry that surrounds them. However, I think forcing taxpayers to pay twice for the ability to read a research paper is ridiculous and could actually limit scientific progress. Denying people the right to view studies that have been supported with their taxes is incomprehensible.