Brainy Quote of the Day

Friday, August 6, 2010

Lawmakers Hear Arguments for and Against Open Access to Research

Article: link

The "For":

"A bill introduced in April by Rep. Michael F. Doyle, Democrat of Pennsylvania, would require the 11 federal agencies that have outside research budgets of $100-million or more to adopt policies mandating timely public access to research they subsidize. That bill, the Federal Research Public Access Act, HR 5037, is now before the full oversight committee."

The "Against":

"The subcommittee first heard from publishers' representatives. Allan R. Adler, vice president for legal and governmental affairs for the Association of American Publishers, whose members include both trade and scholarly publishers, argued that it is critical to distinguish between federally financed research and journal articles based on that research, which he described as partly the product of publishers' labor. He repeated arguments often made by publishers about how their work enhances the value of research, and said that the 12-month embargo under the NIH policy is often not enough for publishers to recoup their investment."

You can get the latest scoop at: HR 5037 bill summary and status - 111th Congress, which seems to suggest it was referred to a committee back in May.

I can see and appreciate both sides in the matter. It's sometimes frustrating but understandable a paper that I may be interested in reading is "fee-based" on one web site, and free on the other.

Part of the problem (I feel) is our entertainment-driven culture: science and personalities have not captured the public imagination like Carl Sagan or Jacques Cousteau; not a large enough market of people interested in a particular branch of research to purchase the magazines/articles and Internet access to any subject you can Google, Bing or Yahoo.

I miss both Sagan and Cousteau.

It was Sagan's book: "The Cosmic Connection," where I learned as a child there could not possibly be a Santa Claus: at the limit of light speed (186,232 miles per second or 3 times 10 to the 8th meters per second), it would have taken the "Jolly Old Elf" about 3 billion years to visit every boy & girl in the world and that's even with the filter of "good versus bad" (sorry Virginia).

Calypso took me places that you can't imagine in an inner city. But imagination is what fueled me. I visited beaches as an adult - after a long stint of fear caused by the "Jaws" movies - because of Cousteau and his passion for the sea. I wanted to wade in it, smell the brine, see the flying fish and dolphins above crashing waves. I think the Gulf Oil Spill would literally break his heart were he still alive.

This blog is in the spirit of Mr. Wizard, a character that made science fun for me as a child and accessible. So, I'm not against entertainment as a tool to communicate scientific principle.

Sadly, what is deemed as entertainment is subject to market forces, and you just can't expect to outsell a juicy story about a Hollywood star's troubles (Lindsay &
Mel come to mind) with a research paper.

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