The Research Works Act

by Katie Ginnane

The Research Works Act, proposed December 2011, is new legislation introduced by Representatives Darrel Issa of California and co-sponsored by Carolyn B. Maloney of New York.  The crux of the legislation is to end the current requirement that research paid for by taxpayers be publicly available for free.  The government body most potentially affected by the legislation would be the National Institute of Health because of its policy of allowing public access; however, any other agency hoping to share the results of research gained through public funds would also be inhibited from doing so in the future.  The bill is currently being considered by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, of which Mr. Issa is the chair.

The bill’s support stems mainly from the Association of American Publishers.  These publishers argue that by publishing research results in their articles they had value and credibility to the research.  By allowing public access to the research results, they may be denied just compensation for publishing because of their peer review process.  The process assesses the research for validity and significance, and according to proponents of the bill, adds value enough to warrant charging for articles outlining the results.

The main opponents of the bill are the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, the Alliance for Taxpayer Access and the American Library Association.  The American Association of Law Librarians opposes the bill as well.  The opponents of the bill protest that the research results are already public property because the research was paid with taxpayer funds.  In essence, according to opponents of the bill, individuals who would purchase the articles would essentially have paid for the research twice.  These organizations stress the importance of access to publicly funded research and would like to continue its availability to those individuals whose funds made the research available in the first place.

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