We Must Stop Conyers Misguided H.R. 801

2nd March 20096:57 am

March 02, 2009

This outrageous news just in from Larry Lessig:

Right now, there’s a bizarre proposal in Congress to forbid the government from requiring scientists who receive taxpayer funds for medical research to publish their findings openly on the Internet. This ban on “open access publishing” (which is currently required) would result in a lot of government-funded research being published exclusively in for-profit journals — inaccessible to the general public.

Why on earth would anyone propose this? A new report by MAPLight.org shows that sponsors of this bill received twice as much money from the publishing industry as those on the relevant committee who are not sponsors. This is exactly the kind of money-for-influence scheme that constantly happens behind our backs — and the public gets hurt…

The main sponsor of the bad publishing bill is John Conyers (D-MI). Who’s against this bill? 33 U.S. Nobel laureates in science, 46 law professors, groups like the American Library Association, the Alliance for Taxpayer Access and open access advocates.

Stopping this legislation may not be easy. The other side will undoubtedly try to muddy the waters in the months ahead with a variety of dubious claims backed up, no doubt, by some of the few scientists who still prefer closed publishing systems. But Larry is absolutely right. I made a similar argument in a column ten years ago. We are talking about research paid for by taxpayers. The results should be available to taxpayers. So in that sense, Conyers’ H.R. 801 really represents an attempted theft of public funds.

Conyers is a hero of the labor and civil rights movement. In more recent years, though, he’s also often advocated on behalf of a variety of big money broadcasting and publishing interests.

Check out Larry’s Change Congress here. And row if you can.

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