Public Access to Publicly Funded Research: it’s only fair

by Bill Hooker

Attention Conservation Notice: this post is here to ask you to sign a petition asking the White House to make all publicly funded research publicly available. Read on for background, or go straight to the petition.

You paid for it — this is about research funded by tax dollars.Index

You don’t own it — the majority of research is still published under the subscription model, with authors transferring copyright to the publisher.

You can’t even read it — unless you have access through a subscribing institution, such as a university library, it will cost you around $30-$40 per paper to read the research you funded. The same goes for the researchers whose salaries you also pay: either their institution pays millions of dollars per year in subscriptions, or they pay the same $30-$40 per paper to access the work they need to build on. And no matter which institution they work at, they don’t have access to everything they need. Not even Harvard can afford full access.

That’s not right.

It’s not right, but some vested interests like it that way and are spending plenty of lobbying dollars trying to keep it that way. Recently, though, researchers and the public have been pushing back.

The Cost of Knowledge Boycott coincided with the withdrawal of the RWA, universities are canceling subscriptions, editors are resigning from the boards of toll-access journals, and there has been a good deal of mainstream media coverage.

It’s important that we push back. We, meaning everyone — whether you’re a patient who wants to take control of their own healthcare, a backyard scientist who wants to know more about how the world works, or a taxpayer who wants their investment in research to yield the maximum return, it’s in your interests to stand up and tell the government that all research funded by all federal agencies should be publicly available. It is high time we took back the science we paid for.

The US government funds a lot of research. I mean, a lot. Counting just the research budgets over $100 million, we have the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health & Human Services, Homeland Security and Transportation; the Environmental Protection Agency; NASA; and the National Science Foundation. Of all those agencies, only the NIH (which is just one part of HHS) has a public-access policy.

All of that research is paid for by taxes. All of that research should be publicly available. That’s the premise and the promise of this petition to the White House:

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