Right to know crippled again!

Once again the right of taxpayers to see the results of NIH research they paid for promptly was hobbled to protect the profits of publishing companies. Surprize, surprize!  From the WP:

An ambitious proposal to make the results of federally funded medical research
available to the public quickly and for free has been scaled back by the
National Institutes of Health under pressure from scientific publishers, who
argued that the plan would eat into their profits and harm the scientific
enterprise they support.

The initial plan, encouraged by Congress and hailed by patient advocacy groups,
called for the results of NIH-funded research to be posted on a publicly
accessible Web site within six months after they are published in a scientific
journal. Most research results now are available only by subscription to the
journal — at a cost that often reaches into the thousands of dollars — or on a
pay-per-article basis that can cost $100 or more for two or three articles.

In the final version of the plan, however, the recommended six-month deadline
for posting results has been stretched to a year. That change has angered many
advocates of public access, who have argued it isn’t fair that taxpayers must
either wait or ante up to see the results of research they have already paid

Several business coalitions — including the Association of American Publishers,
whose president is Patricia Schroeder, a former congresswoman from Colorado —
had lobbied strenuously against the initial proposal, which they said would
jeopardize many journals’ existence by undercutting their paid subscriber

"The publishers were crawling all over the place," said Rick Johnson,
director of the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, an
alliance of academic and research libraries trying to change the current system.
He and others have argued that few scientists or libraries would cancel their
subscriptions just because NIH-funded content was available free elsewhere,
because such research represents only a fraction of the content of most

NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni denied that the agency had buckled under industry
pressure. Zerhouni said in a telephone interview that there are so many
different kinds of publishers — including many nonprofit publishers run by
scientific societies, which reinvest their profits in scientific and educational
endeavors — that it did not make sense to demand a six-month release deadline
for all.

"I could not prove that a six-month deadline would not harm a
significant part of the industry," Zerhouni said. "The new policy continues to
call for release of information as soon as possible after publication, but it
really leaves it in the hands of the scientists to decide when. What’s important
is that we’re creating a precedent in which the agency that funds medical
research is establishing a public database containing all its scientific output.
I am certain that over time people will see this as a win-win."

Yeah, right!

But what interests me is–in great contrast to when I joined the Society 30 years ago–how much  access to medical and scientific information has grown with the Internet. When I was hired it was practically a firing offense to give any of our "professional" literature to a layman. They said "it’ll only confuse them and cause anxiety." Boy has that rationale gone away.

Leave a Reply