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Lee Hadden writes "A fight is brewing in the scientific world over whether articles published
in expensive scholarly journals ought to be widely available for free on the
The National Institutes for Health has proposed that any scientist whose
work is funded by NIH research-grant money and later published should make
it available on a public NIH-sponsored Internet site. The reasoning: It's
taxpayer-funded research, so fellow scientists, doctors, patients, students
and others should have free access to it within six months of publication --
which alarms publishers. The NIH has asked for public comment until Nov. 16.
Patient-advocacy groups back the proposal, arguing that too often the latest
scientific findings are off-limits to the average citizen. An annual
subscription to one of these journals costs between $200 and $6,000.
Among the proposal's supporters are 25 Nobel laureates who have written to
Congress stating: "When a woman goes online to find what treatment options
are available to battle breast cancer, the cutting-edge, peer-reviewed
research remains behind a high-fee barrier. Families looking to read
clinical trial updates for a loved one with Huntington's disease search in
vain -- because they do not have a journal subscription."
While some publishers had hoped the "open access" movement would fade, they
are now worried by the plan and are launching a counter-offensive to protect
the lucrative scientific, technical and medical publishing industry. About
half of the industry's $10 billion in revenue comes from such publications.
Today, several publishers are scheduled to meet privately with NIH Director
Elias Zerhouni to urge him to proceed slowly on the proposal. "Feelings are
running very high about this," says John Regazzi, an executive of the
Elsevier unit of Reed Elsevier Group PLC, the Anglo-Dutch publishing giant
and the biggest player in the field with about 20% of the market. "The
notion that publicly funded research should be publicly available is a good
one. But is this really the right solution?"
Read more about it at: www.wsj.com or on other library
newspaper jobbers such as ProQuest.""