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ISCB Response to Research Works Act HR-3699

Dear ISCB Members and Colleagues,

On February 14, 2012, the following letter was personalized to each of the 39 members of the US House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee and successfully sent via fax to their congressional offices. We share this to keep you informed on ISCB's response to HR-3699, and also to invite you to use any parts of this letter for stating your own opposition to this legislation that threatens to limit public access to federally funded scientific research.

Dear Representative :

On behalf of the International Society for Computational Biology (ISCB) and its 1198 individual members from across the United States, we strongly oppose H.R. 3699, the "Research Works Act," introduced on December 16 and referred to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. This bill would prohibit 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.

H.R. 3699 will limit American taxpayers in accessing the results of the crucial scientific research they funded. By reversing the growing trend for cooperation and collaboration made possible by the open and rapid sharing of information and research results, this bill will inhibit our ability to exploit scientific discoveries, stifle critical advances in life-saving scientific research, and impede the pace of innovation in all scientific disciplines.

Most critically, H.R. 3699 would reverse the highly successful National Institutes of Health (NIH) Public Access Policy. 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. H.R. 3699 would abrogate this collection. This loss will seriously impede the ability of researchers, physicians, healthcare professionals, and families to access and use this critical health-related information in a timely manner.

H.R. 3699 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 unfairly limited by this proposed legislation --- greatly to the detriment 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 permit and encourage the NIH and other agencies to ensure timely, public access to the results of research funded with taxpayer dollars. Please oppose H.R. 3699.


Scott Markel, Ph.D., Chair of ISCB Publication Committee

Richard Lathrop, Ph.D., Chair of ISCB Public Affairs & Policies Committee

Burkhard Rost, Ph.D., ISCB President