The debate over public access got an airing before a House Science Committee panel today. Witnesses weighed in on whether the government should require research papers describing federally funded work be freely available.
The most-discussed such mandate is that of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Since 2008, NIH has required its grantees to post their peer-reviewed manuscripts in a free online archive after an embargo of up to 12 months following a paper's publication in a journal. Two years ago, the Science Committee convened a group of stakeholders, called the Scholarly Publishing Roundtable, that looked at whether other agencies should follow NIH's lead. The group's compromise conclusion urged agencies to develop public access policies, but said each should work out the details (embargo length and whether to post papers in a central archive or on scientists' personal web sites, for example).
At today's hearing held by the committee's Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight, two representatives of scientific societies—Crispin Taylor of the American Society of Plant Biologists and Frederick Dylla of the American Institute of Physics—were leery of an NIH-style mandate. They warned of cancelled journal subscriptions if articles were freely available, even after a 12-month embargo.