Open-Access Fans Clash With a Congressional Baron

The scientific publishing world is all atwitter about Representative John Conyers's (D–MI) battle this week with defenders of the “open access” rule at the National Institutes of Health. This rule—adopted last year—requires NIH-funded scientists to publish all of their research articles on the internet for free.

Conyers, who opposes the policy, introduced a bill last month that would overturn the rule—and was immediately attacked. In blogs, open-access fans questioned Conyers’s motivation and rationale. The Michigan Democrat countered, writing that he opposed the NIH rule because it threatens the principle of copyright, a legal matter that comes under the Judiciary Committee, which he heads. He also argued that NIH’s open-access rule could undermine scientific journals by taking away subscription income.
Conyers's essay has drawn passionate responses from open-access proponents, notably Michael Eisen, a biologist at the University of California, Berkeley. Eisen calls Conyers’s bill “an atrocious piece of legislation that sacrifices the public interest to those of a select group of publishing companies.”