by Dr. Barbara
FASEB (the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology)
primarily in order to join voices with a group with access to U.S.
lawmakers. The ISCB Government Relations Committee would like to
hear from ISCB members about similar opportunities to access policy
makers in other countries, and about the issues you think we ought
to be addressing.
ISCB has set
up a discussion area at forums.iscb.org,
and we encourage you to visit that site and give us ideas and feedback.
We are also in the process of setting up list serve email lists
for more direct
discussion of hot topics.
Here are a number
of issues that FASEBs Public Affairs team has been addressing
in the past few months:
Martin O. Sabo (Democrat, Minnesota) drafted the Public Access
to Science Act, which would prohibit copyrighting of works
funded by the U.S. government. The intent is to allow people to
see scientific articles without having to pay large journal subscription
fees. However, an unintended effect would be to eliminate the most
common mechanism for protection, and subsequent commercialization,
of software. FASEBs President, Robert D. Wells, has met with
and written to Mr. Sabo on behalf of FASEB to caution against this
new legislation, specifically stating, Any significant changes
to the existing system of scientific publication are likely to have
serious and lasting consequences on the dissemination of new research
knowledge. FASEB believes that it is vital that all stakeholders
have a voice in the development of any new policies.
Most ISCB members
support the idea of having good access to scientific literature,
not only for us humans, but also for the digestion of our text-mining
programs. The Public Library of Science (PLoS) approach (articles
available free online to readers; authors pay a publishing fee)
is an attractive alternative. However, some people I've spoken with
are concerned about forcing such a business model on all publications
(by means of the Sabo bill): What if it does not work for all journals?
Would valuable news and review articles still get published? Would
the quality of scientific literature be affected? They also point
out that journals have been making great strides toward more open
access lately; Bioinformatics, for example, is available
free and at reduced prices for people in low per-capita income countries
through non-profit institutions, and is released free to all one
year after publication. Other ISCB members are avid proponents of
the PLoS approach, and would like to see a wholesale jump to that
model immediately. People generally would like to see more communication
between the various parties in this debate, to achieve progress
toward the shared goal of increased access to the results of scientific
research and high quality publications.
FASEB will also
be taking part in an NIH workshop on the topic of training and career
development. There is particular concern about postdoctoral training,
and its possible abuse by institutions that retain talented researchers
at low pay in positions without advancement opportunities. Interested
ISCB members are encouraged to provide their thoughts via our forums
(forums.iscb.org), which will
be communicated to the FASEB team involved.
follows budgeting and spending of U.S. federal research dollars.
They raised the alarm when research dollars were suddenly slated
to be spent on procurement of anthrax vaccine. FASEB lobbies for
increases in budgets for research; they were instrumental in the
recent five-year doubling of the NIH budget, and are strong advocates
for increases for NSF.
that FASEB watches is the management and operation of the federal
research agencies. When the VA suddenly canceled a number of promised
grants, FASEB took action and continues to express concern about
a shift away from peer review. FASEB objected to recent political
scrutiny by congressmen of specific grants related to AIDS.
Please let us
know of issues that ISCB might raise with the other FASEB member
societies for consideration. As a new associate member of FASEB,
ISCB can provide a strong voice for issues of critical importance
to the growing field of bioinformatics.