HR3699, and the best way of disseminating scientific knowledge that the public has paid for?

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Posted by Gordon Douglas, community karma 549

Someone on Twitter, @ReinventionInc, asked this question about HR3699 and the dissemination of publicly-funded scientific knowledge, and it got me interested in the subject too, so I thought it was worth getting a conversation going on here about it...

HR3699, the 'Research Works Act', says that "No Federal agency may adopt, implement, maintain, continue, or otherwise engage in any policy, program, or other activity that -- (1) causes, permits, or authorizes network dissemination of any private-sector research work without the prior consent of the publisher of such work; or (2) requires that any actual or prospective author, or the employer of such an actual or prospective author, assent to network dissemination of a private-sector research work." (Source)

Because even government funded research can become "private work" with the added value of the commercial publication process, this has been interpreted as essentially forbidding the government from requiring the author/researcher to make the result publicly available.

The full potential impact of the bill (which faces a long road to passage anyway) is still a bit murky by my reading, but certainly the above is generally a tough question - I'm wary of attempts to limit open-access online and elsewhere, but scientific intellectual property is a delicate issue and most academic journals do continue to provide an important part of the scholarly publication/dissemination process.

What do you think? Should publicly-funded research be publicly available? What are the limits to this?

2 Comments

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Matthew Pemble, community karma 49

Within some not-very strict limits - you wouldn't necessarily want all publicly funded research which turns out to have weapons applications published and, in my area of information security, you don't necessarily want vulnerability information published until the vendors have been at least given the change to publish a fix. Also, some data may need to be redacted for publication (sensitive personal identifying data, for example.)

But, as a general rule, if the public has funded the research, the information should be made available.

about 11 years ago
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Brian Cody, community karma 143472

Michael Eisen argues in a New York Times opinion piece that "if taxpayers paid for it, they own it," meaning that research funded by taxpayer dollars should be publically available.

In this same piece, Eisen moves beyond a public-ownership perspective to argue that much scholarly research is done through organizations devoted to the public good, and that making the research publicly available is in-line with the goals of these organizations: "And most important, the N.I.H., universities and other public and private agencies that sponsor academic research should make it clear that fulfilling their mission requires that their researchers’ scholarly output be freely available to the public at the moment of publication."

about 11 years ago
Good to see Michael Eisen in the NYTimes. There's actually another Conversation thread about an article he wrote on the problems with peer review: http://bit.ly/xkt2rP
Rob Walsh – about 11 years ago
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