Sponsors and Supporters back away from Research Works Act
Earlier today, Elsevier issued a statement withdrawing its support of the Research Works Act (RWA), a bill designed to overturn the popular NIH Public Access Policy, and prohibit the adoption of similar policies by other federal agencies. The statement read in part:
"At Elsevier, we have always focused on serving the global research community and ensuring the best possible access to research publications and data. In recent weeks, our support for the Research Works Act has caused some in the community to question that commitment.”
Indeed. “Some in the community” includes scores of universities, libraries, patients advocacy groups and other public interest organizations that expressed strong opposition to the proposed legislation. It also includes an astounding number of individuals who used social and conventional media to protest the bill. And, most notably, it includes the nearly 7,500 researchers who signed a petition boycotting Elsevier, vowing to stop publishing in or editing for Elsevier-published journals.
Elsevier followed up this public statement with a letter to the mathematics community (the boycott movement is rooted in a blogged call to action from noted mathematician and Fields Medalist Tim Gowers), reiterating its retreat from the RWA, and expressing the company’s intent to address journal pricing issues, journal bundling requirements, and opportunities for broader access to its publications.
It would appear that Elsevier executives weren’t the only ones feeling the heat. Just a few hours later, the sponsors of the Research Works Act (Reps. Darrell Issa R-CA and Carolyn Maloney D-NY) issued a joint statement declaring that bill was essentially DOA in Congress. They noted, “The American people deserve to have access to research for which they have paid,” and declaring “we will not be taking legislative action on H.R. 3699, the Research Works Act.” The legislators cited the vocal feedback from stakeholders - and an apparent new belief that Open Access is the wave of the future – as rationale for backing off of the bill.
While there is clearly much to celebrate in today’s turn of events, squelching the Research Works Act is only half of the Congressional battle. The community can now focus its full attention on taking positive steps to ensure that public access to publicly funded research becomes a reality. If you haven’t done so already, take this opportunity to remind your Senators and Representatives to actively support the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA). Today’s events tell us - loud and clear - that people are listening when we tell them what we oppose; now we must capitalize on this chance to be sure that they hear – just as clearly - what we support. Go to our Action Center to further support FRPAA.