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  Latest News  
  July 26,  2004
Volume 82, Number 30
p. 12


U.S., U.K. committees want publishers to make articles available for free


Government committees in the U.S. and U.K. are taking steps to promote free online access to scientific literature. Open-access proponents are delighted, but others are concerned about potential risks.

The committees’ support and other recent endorsements of open-access publishing “amount to a stinging rebuke of the prevailing subscription-based publishing system,” according to a statement released by Public Library of Science, an open-access publisher. “Open access is the only acceptable outcome.”

Not so fast, responds the Association of American Publishers. “We don’t oppose open-access publishing, but only its premature and unwarranted imposition through government mandate,” says Barbara J. Meredith, vice president for professional and scholarly publishing.

Several publishers remain unconvinced that open access is the way to go. Robert D. Bovenschulte, president of the American Chemical Society’s Publications Division, says, “We see no compelling case to abandon our traditional subscription model for a risky, untried model, which could put our journal publishing program in jeopardy.” The open-access model also could jeopardize ACS programs that are supported by publishing revenues.

In mid-July, the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations approved a provision backing open access. The provision states that the committee is “very concerned that there is insufficient public access to reports and data resulting” from research funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). It also condemns escalating journal prices.

It’s uncertain whether the provision will remain in the bill when the House votes later this summer. If the language remains, NIH will be asked to set up a plan whereby a copy of articles written by authors whose research is funded by the agency will be placed in PubMed Central for release within six months of publication. PubMed Central is NIH’s free digital archive of life sciences journal literature.

In the U.K., a parliamentary committee last week issued a report on publishing. In “Scientific Publications: Free For All?” the House of Commons’ Science & Technology Committee voiced its displeasure with the high prices and access limitations that characterize some scientific publishing and offered possible solutions.

Research institutions should set up a network of free-access online repositories containing their staff’s publications, the committee suggested, and government-funded researchers should put a copy of their publications in these repositories. The government should help fund the repositories and cover fees that authors pay publishers to make their articles open access. The U.K. government will respond to the committee’s report within the next few months.

  Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © 2004

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