Last Thursday the House Subcommittee on Information Policy, Census, and National Archives held a hearing entitled "Public Access to Federally-Funded Research." The hearing examined the issues surrounding public access to federally-funded research, and how these policies may affect scholarly publishers as well as researchers and scientists.
Among the panelists were David Lipman from the National Institutes of Health, Catherine Nancarrow from the Public Library of Science Community Journals, Elliott Maxwell from the Committee for Economic Development, and Steven Breckler from the American Psychological Association. Allan Adler, VP of Government Affairs for the Association of American Publishers, discussed the dangers of mandates like the proposed Federal Research Public Access Act to the publishing industry and U.S. information economy in general:
Publishers strongly believe that American taxpayers are entitled to the research they've paid for. As taxpayers ourselves, collectively and individually, everyone in this room has paid for government-funded research, as well as the data and summary reports that result from this research. But taxpayers have not paid for the private sector, peer-reviewed journal articles reporting on that research.
For over a century, non-profit and commercial publishers have served as the government's partner in fueling scientific discovery and innovation. The presumption now that taxpayers should have free access to peer-reviewed journal articles seriously discounts the considerable contributions of our industry and highly-skilled workforce of some 50,000 who are driving the U.S. knowledge economy and supporting our leadership in science. Our $10 billion industry is a critical part of the U.S. export economy and U.S. global competitiveness.
Sweeping government mandates like the Federal Research Public Access Act would undermine the country's most urgent effort--that is to grow employment while, at the same time, maintaining -- indeed, enhancing -- U.S. leadership in science. Government mandates requiring free access to private sector products will stifle innovation in what is now a rapidly changing environment, both by decreasing the amount that publishers are able to invest and reducing their incentive to explore new approaches.