Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Nature Publishing Group and Digital Science do not support the Research Works Act

Nature Publishing Group (NGP) and Digital Science today released a joint statement about the controversial Research Works Act (RWA), otherwise known as H.R. 3699.

The statement reads:

Nature Publishing Group (NPG) and Digital Science note the concern amongst the scientific and library communities about the Research Works Act (H.R. 3699), currently under consideration by the U.S. federal government, and wish to clarify our position.

NPG and Digital Science do not support the Research Works Act.

NPG and Digital Science exist to support the creation and dissemination of human knowledge on a sustainable commercial basis. We seek to enable the open exchange of ideas, especially in scientific communities, in line with the requirements and objectives of relevant stakeholders.

Dr Annette Thomas [then Managing Director of NPG] was on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) working group that introduced the NIH Public Access Policy, and NPG has actively supported self-archiving since 2005. NPG encourages self-archiving of the author's accepted manuscript six months after publication. Since 2008, NPG's free deposition service has deposited over 3000 manuscripts in PubMed Central on behalf of authors. NPG works constructively with other 'open' repositories. Digital Science provides tools, such as ReadCube and figshare, for scientists and scholars to share content.

NPG's January 2011 position statement on open access remains representative of our views. NPG's business development efforts are very much focused on open access as one of a range of sustainable publishing models. Recently we have demonstrated this by launching the multidisciplinary titles Nature Communications and Scientific Reports, and several specialist open access journals and journals with open access options. Of the five journals NPG launched in 2011, four are open access, and 51 of the 54 academic and society journals that we publish now offer open access options.


 We should note that Nature Publishing Group is a member of the Association of American Publishers (AAP), which backs the RWA, and has described the bill as “significant legislation that will help reinforce America’s leadership in scholarly and scientific publishing in the public interest and in the critical peer-review system that safeguards the quality of such research.”

If passed, the RWA would be a major setback for the Open Access movement. It would reverse the Public Access Policy introduced by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 2005 — which requires that all NIH-funded research is made freely accessible online within 12 months — and it would prevent other federal agencies from imposing similar requirements on researchers.

A number of other AAP members have disavowed the RWA, including MIT Press, ITHAKA, Pennsylvania State University Press, California University Press, and Rockefeller University Press. Others may be weakening — e.g. University of Chicago Press and Cambridge University Press

NPG's statement is available here

Further background on the RWA is available here


The nonprofit American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and publisher of the journal Science, has posted a statement on its web site stressing that it does not endorse the RWA. Below is an extract:

“We believe the current NIH public access policy provides an important mechanism for ensuring that the public has access to biomedical research findings,” said AAAS Chief Executive Officer Alan I. Leshner, executive publisher of Science. “At the same time, the NIH policy provides appropriate support for the intellectual property rights of publishers who have invested much in science communication.”

Leshner added, “AAAS, like many organizations, is a member of the Association of American Publishers, but we do not endorse all of their policies or statements, and we wish to make that very clear in this case. AAAS is not in favor of the proposed Research Works Act.”

The full statement is available here.


Arno Bosse said...

I don't think it's a fair characterization to say that University of Chicago Press' support for the RWA "may be weakening". That makes it sound as if they were previously in support and are now wavering.

UCP was clear in its message to me when I contacted it that it does not endorse the RWA. It's true that it hasn't take a public position but there could be any number of reasons for this - consultation with its peers about a joint statement, approval from its legal dept. etc.

I'd very much prefer a public statement of disavowal from them as well. But I don't think there's a basis for implying that they formerly were in support and are now reconsidering.

Richard Poynder said...

That is a fair point. I agree I could have phrased it better. I did not mean to imply that the University of Chicago Press has changed its position. I cannot know whether it has or not.

What I can say is that I have emailed the Press three times, and in my last message I drew attention to your comment. I have yet to receive a reply to any of my emails.

In light of what you have said publicly, I cannot help but think it would be better for the Press to publicly confirm or deny what you say.

Of course, it is quite entitled not to do so, but it would be nice if it could reply to my emails and say whether or not it does intend to make a public statement.

Arno Bosse said...

Agreed. Meanwhile the window for it to stake a leadership role on the right side of this issue is slowly closing.