ISCB CONTINUES TO ADVOCATE FOR OPEN ACCESS
The effort to preserve open access to scientific literature funded with public funds has become a never-ending challenge. The ISCB Public Affairs and Policies Committee has closely followed this issue, and busily advocated on behalf of open access. The ISCB Public Policy Statement on Open Access to Scientific and Technical Literature was released in October, 2010, and reported in full in the ISCB Newsletter - Summer 2011.
This past December the Research Works Act (H.R. 3699) was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, but eventually withdrawn by the bill's sponsors before gaining a companion bill in the Senate or moving through the Congressional hearing process. That bill would have prohibited federal agencies from requiring, as a condition of their research grant funding, that the public be guaranteed online access to the products of research funded by public tax dollars. Shortly before the withdrawal, ISCB sent a letter signed by Richard Lathrop-ISCB Public Affairs and Policies Committee Chair, Scott Markel-ISCB Publications Committee Chair, and Burkhard Rost-ISCB President to every member of the House encouraging them to vote against the bill, and pointing to our own policy statement as a guiding principle on open access.
More recently, the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPPA; H.R. 4004 and S. 2096) was re-introduced to both chambers of Congress (the House and the Senate), after previous attempts at this legislation in 2006 and 2010. These companion bills would require federal research funding agencies, as a condition of their research grant funding, to develop policies that ensure the public is guaranteed online access to the products of research funded by public tax dollars. Naturally, ISCB has taken a stand in favor of these bills, and sent personalized letters of support to all members of Congress, plus each of their Chief's of Staff and Legislative Assistants for the respective committees reviewing these bills.
Below is the full text of the letter sent in support of FRPPA. We encourage all members in the U.S. to adapt this letter for sending a personalized version to your own members of Congress to ensure the protection of open access to scientific results. Additionally, if you are not in the U.S. and ever have news of regulations being introduced in your country that would prohibit or restrict open access in any way, please let us know at
email@example.com. This issue is not confined to the U.S., and as an international society we are committed to advocating on behalf of open access in all corners of the world.
ISCB Letter to all members of the U.S. Congress, sent June 4, 2012:
On behalf of the International Society for Computational Biology (ISCB), we strongly encourage you to sign on as a co-sponsor of H.R. 4004 / S. 2096, the "Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA)," introduced on February 9 and referred to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform / Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs. This bill would require federal research funding agencies, as a condition of their research grant funding, to develop policies that ensure the public is guaranteed online access to the products of research funded by public tax dollars.
This bill will empower American taxpayers in accessing the results of the crucial scientific research they funded. By supporting the growing trend for cooperation and collaboration made possible by the open and rapid sharing of information and research results, this bill will improve our ability to exploit scientific discoveries, promote critical advances in life-saving scientific research, and accelerate the pace of innovation in all scientific disciplines.
Most critically, this bill would propagate the highly successful National Institutes of Health (NIH) Public Access Policy to other agencies. The NIH Public Access Policy now gives millions of Americans public access to vital health care information from the NIH's PubMed Central database. Under the current policy, more than 90,000 new biomedical manuscripts are deposited for public accessibility each year, allowing researchers, physicians, healthcare professionals, taxpayers, and families to access and use this critical health-related information in a timely manner.
This bill would make such a collection the rule, rather than the exception, for federal agencies. It affects not only the results of biomedical research produced by the NIH, but also scientific research from all other federal agencies. Access to critical information, paid for with taxpayers' money and addressing vital areas such as energy, public safety, the environment, and hundreds more, would be significantly extended by this legislation --- greatly to the benefit of the lives and well-being of the public, which funded the research in the first place.
In October, 2010, ISCB published a public policy statement on "Open Access to Scientific and Technical Research Literature" (www.iscb.org/iscb-policy-statements/literature_open_access). This policy statement embraced Open Access even beyond the current NIH policy. The vision of individualized medicine offers many reasons for hope and a brighter future. Achieving such important goals poses immense challenges for the discipline of computational biology. No single research institution is ready for a challenge of this magnitude, so we have learned to join forces and to share scientific results and information. The objective of ISCB's statement on Open Access is to increase the availability of scientific results and developments in our field well beyond what is currently accomplished by the NIH. An excerpt from this statement:
The International Society for Computational Biology strongly advocates free, open, public, online: (i) access by person or machine to the publicly-funded archival scientific and technical research literature; and (ii) computational reuse, integration, and distillation of that literature into higher-order knowledge elements.
We strongly urge you to require all federal research funding agencies to ensure timely, public access to the results of research funded with taxpayer dollars. Please become a co-sponsor and support H.R. 4004 / S. 2096.
Scott Markel, Ph.D.
Chair of ISCB Publication Committee
Richard Lathrop, Ph.D.
Chair of ISCB Public Affairs & Policies Committee
Burkhard Rost, Ph.D.