Most readers will by now be aware of the considerable fuss over a bill being presented to the U.S. House of Representatives that will (to my understanding) revert the requirement that centrally (NIH) funded research in the USA be published in an open-access manner. There has been widespread commentary on this bill.*

A key international organisation representing computational biologists is the International Society for Computational Biology. Below is a transcript of a letter they have distributed in response to the filing of this bill:

Dear ISCB Members and Colleagues,

As many of you may be aware, the U.S. House of Representatives has recently been presented with a bill called the Research Works Act (HR 3699) that threatens the current U.S. requirements of public access to federally funded research results. ISCB strongly opposes this bill. Burkhard Rost, ISCB President, and Richard Lathrop, ISCB Public Affairs & Policies Committee Chair, are drafting a letter to the bill’s authors that expresses our opposition and emphasizes the importance of the ISCB Public Policy Statement on Open Access to Scientific and Technical Research Literature that was released in 2010. If you are a member of ISCB and have not yet signed on to our statement, you are invited to do so at your earliest opportunity via the link to current signatories on the policy page noted above.

Thank you,

BJ Morrison McKay, ISCB Executive Officer

on behalf of Burkhard Rost, Richard Lathrop, and the ISCB Board of Directors

(Embedded link as in original.)

Although this issue is nominally one for researchers based in USA, it sets a precedent. With that in mind it deserves wide consideration, including by those outside of the USA.

The bill refers to ’private-sector research work’ is the key passages, but my current understanding is that this reference makes public-sector work become private-sector once private-sector publishers** ‘add value’ in the form of addition steps such as co-ordinating peer-review,*** editing, etc. Janet Stemwedel has some thoughts on this. Whichever way you interpret this, computational biologists will want to understand the direction the community is taking.


* This is only a small sampler. There’s a lot more commentary out there.

** Rather than private-sector researchers, as it might be misread.

*** They don’t do the peer-review: that’s done unpaid by researchers.

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