Public access to published science "under threat in the US"

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A group of eight scientific publishers has written collectively to the US government warning that a proposed bill is putting public access to published science under threat.

The US House Appropriations Committee’s 2024 Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill proposes new spending of $58 billion and reportedly seeks to "rein in the Washington bureaucracy by right-sizing agencies and programs."

The eight publishers ­– eLife, Frontiers, JMIR Publications, MDPI, the Open Library of Humanities, PeerJ, PLOS and Ubiquity Press – have signed a letter to ‘raise the dangers of the bill's draft language’, warning that, if enacted, it would block federally funded research from being freely available to American taxpayers without delay on publication.

The letter states: “If enacted, the current Appropriations Bill will prevent American taxpayers from seeing the societal benefits of the more than $90 billion in scientific research that the U.S. government funds each year, as most of the research remains locked behind publishing paywalls. And it will remove the current requirement for commercial publishers to adapt their business models to make public access to science fair.

“Science for the few who can access it – as opposed to the many who pay for it – is inefficient as scientific or governmental policy. The political and societal move towards Open Science is well established as the demand for access to all publicly funded research intensifies. The retention of the 12-month embargo, as the Appropriations Bill stipulates, is a retrograde step within the global context of research and access to scientific literature.” 

It concludes: “The United States is a global scientific leader. The inclusion of the current language in relation to Sec 552 would be a block on the advancement of US research and its influence within the international scientific community. We would be happy to work with the Committee to develop alternative language that maintains the existing direction of Open Science policy and scientific freedom.”

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