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Publishers oppose government mandates

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A coalition of 75 nonprofit publishers has made a statement opposing any legislation that would ‘abruptly end a publishing system that has nurtured independent scientific inquiry for generations’.

The statement from the Washington DC Principles for Free Access to Science Coalition has been released in response to measures such as the Federal Research Public Access Act, introduced in the USA in the 109th Congress. This would have required all federally funded research to be deposited in an accessible database within six months of acceptance in a scientific journal and some open-access advocates are pressing for the introduction of a similar measure in the 110th Congress.

‘The long tradition of methodical scientific inquiry and information sharing through publication in scholarly journals has helped advance medicine to where it is today,’ said Martin Frank of the American Physiological Society and coordinator of the coalition. ‘We as independent publishers must determine when it is appropriate to make content freely available, and we believe strongly it should not be determined by government mandate.’

‘The scholarly publishing system is a delicate balance between the need to sustain journals financially and the goal of disseminating scientific knowledge as widely as possible. Publishers have voluntarily made more journal articles available free worldwide than at any time in history - without government intervention,’ added Kathleen Case of the American Association for Cancer Research.

The coalition expressed concern that a mandatory timetable for free access to all federally funded research could harm journals, scientists, and ultimately the public. Subscriptions to journals with a high percentage of federally-funded research would decline rapidly, believes the coalition. It also points out that subscription revenues support peer review and also support the educational work of scientific societies that publish journals.