The bipartisan Research Works Act (H.R. 3699), introduced in December 2011 by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Committee member Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), gives authors and publishers of private-sector research works a fair, reasonable voice regarding the distribution of those works and the protection of their copyright in them.
The bill is intended to:
prohibit a federal government agency from mandating the free, unlimited digital dissemination of a private-sector journal article that reports on research funded in whole or part by the agency when the private-sector publisher of the article has made, or arranged with its author to make, value-adding contributions to the article for publication.
similarly protect the author of such journal articles from being required to grant the funding agency the right to freely disseminate it as a condition of receiving funding to conduct such research.
There are numerous myths surrounding the Research Works Act:
“The Research Works Act is part of a concerted effort by publishers to privatize information and protect profits.”
Publishers exist to expand access to information, not restrict it, and they make substantial investments supporting and enhancing this mission. Technology advancements derived from their investments have dramatically improved efficiency, quality and delivery speed of scientific communication — this has resulted in more public access to more information, through more channels, than ever before. These capabilities also support more researchers submitting more articles than in the past. Publishers need to protect their intellectual property rights to continue investments in such innovations.
“The Research Works Act limits rights of authors.”
Under RWA, authors using funded research will still retain the right to share data, reports and other materials, including their submitted manuscripts. In fact, RWA protects the rights of authors to publish wherever they want, free from government requirements to publish only in venues approved by federal agencies.
In addition, funding agencies can — and should — make public the final progress reports they require research grantees to provide to them, which explain how researchers conducted their work and the results of it.
“Publishers are not open to broadening access to their works by the federal government.”
Publishers support reasonable efforts by the federal government to make results of publicly-funded research more widely available, including statutory directives in the America COMPETES Act to guarantee broader public access. But such access should not exploit the rights and investments of private-sector publishers through government mandate. We have had ongoing dialogue with Executive Branch officials at the Office of Science and Technology Policy, Department of Energy and National Science Foundation to find solutions to improve public dissemination of and access to research results without weakening incentives for continuing publishers’ investments in private-sector works.
“Without a government mandate, the public does not have access to research results.”
Tapping into new technology and channels, publishers now offer numerous free or low-cost ways to access published articles that report, analyze and interpret government funded research — often in partnership with the funding federal agencies. Publishers have also enabled free access to articles through major academic centers, public and research libraries, interlibrary loan programs and online databases. There are pay-per-view and online access options at modest rates or free; these include such programs as patientINFORM, DeepDyve and Research4Life. Publishers continue to create more ways to open the doors to such professionally peer-reviewed knowledge.
RWA does not prevent the federal government from providing access to the research it funds. It simply prevents the government from arbitrarily distributing the private-sector scholarly works that report on such research with value-added contributions from private-sector publishers, such as expert peer review, editing or production. .
“The Internet has lessened the need for publishers’ involvement with scholarly communication.”
The Internet has made the role of publishers more critical than ever. The value they add — through editing, validation, distribution, peer review, standardization, enhanced discoverability and longterm stewardship — is essential to the scientific process and must continue.
Authors are supported by publishers’ services in organizing and managing these processes and by the investments publishers make in creating and sustaining the journals that form the core of scientific communication.
Why the Research Works Act is necessary:
This legislation seeks to ensure freedom from regulatory interference for private-sector research publications.
For over a century, free market dynamics have provided the incentive for publishers to invest in the peer-review of research prior to publication and in the infrastructure necessary to publish, validate, distribute and archive journal articles. Researchers have depended on this system as well. Together, they have contributed to substantial gains in scientific, technical, medical and scholarly research and knowledge.
While the federal government may fund research or some portion of it, it does not fund the scholarly, technological or financial investments made for value-added journal articles produced by private-sector publishers. The federal government should not be permitted to give away these private-sector products without the prior consent of the publishers.
About America’s professional and scholarly publishers:
This sector publishes, in print and electronic form, the vast majority of materials produced and used by professionals and scholars worldwide in the fields of science, medicine, technology, business, law and the humanities. They include commercial publishing companies, professional societies and university presses.
Together, they publish over 1.3 million articles annually which report on, analyze and interpret original research; to produce these works, these publishers invest millions of dollars in staffing (retaining more than 30,000 U.S. workers), editorial, technological, capital and operational funding of the complex peer review process by specialized experts. North American-based science journal publishers alone account for nearly half of all peer-reviewed papers published annually in the world.