Don’t Pay Twice for Biomedical Research:
Access to the latest medical research saves lives and grows the economy.
We should not pay twice for taxpayer-funded research.
U.S. taxpayers spend billions on biomedical research.
- American taxpayers spend over $60 billion on non-defense research through government programs like the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Department of Energy (DOE).[i]
- Half of that investment is in biomedical research supported by the NIH, resulting in over 90,000 papers published in journals each year.[ii]
- These publications provide patients and physicians the latest information for treating disease and researchers the cutting-edge findings that advance R&D and innovation.
Under current law, patients, health care providers, or anyone else can see the results of taxpayer-funded NIH research.
- In 2008, Congress enacted a Public Access Policy requiring peer-reviewed research publications, supported by NIH funding, to be made accessible to the public.
- The NIH PubMed Central website - a freely accessible, online database - makes over 2.4 million articles available.[ii]
- Every weekday, half a million users, retrieving over 1 million articles, visit PubMed Central. Forty percent of those users are from the general public, another 25%, from universities.[ii]
- Still, publishers insisted on an embargo of up to a year before having to make publicly available this taxpayer-funded research.
Public access to this research can provide life-saving treatment information to patients and keeps America’s research at the cutting edge of innovation.
- Almost 60% of all U.S. adults check for health information online, and nearly a quarter of Internet users have consulted online reviews of particular drugs or medical treatments.[iii]
- Without a subscription, accessing taxpayer-funded research could cost from $15 (The New England Journal of Medicine) 11 to $31.50 (The Lancet) for a single article in one of these top medical journals.[iv]
- The NIH Public Access Policy made taxpayer-funded research available to the public, without subscription barriers. The public should not have to pay twice – once to fund the research and then again to see the results.
Remember the Research Works Act was withdrawn, only thanks to the voice of countless concerned citizens.
- Just earlier this year, the Association of American Publishers had pushed for the "Research Works Act," even while its members, from the Nature Publishing Group and the American Association for the Advancement of Science to university presses (MIT Press, the University of California Press, Rockefeller University Press, and others), actively disavowed support of the publisher trade association’s position.[v],[vi],[vii],[viii]
- On February 27, 2012, Reed Elsevier—one of the largest scientific publishers—withdrew its initial staunch endorsement of the Research Works Act, but released an official statement that it still opposed “government mandates in this area” that have enabled the American public access to taxpayer-funded research.[ix]
- Ironically, The Lancet, Elsevier’s own flagship biomedical research journal, had described the Research Works Act in the following terms: “This short and hastily put together legislation is not in the interests of either science or the public. Putting limitations on the dissemination of a scientist’s own work is a startlingly ill-considered strategy. Science is a public enterprise. A scientific publisher’s primary responsibility is to serve the research community. Their own interests—financial and reputational—depend upon the trust the public has in science. Obstructing the dissemination of publicly funded science will damage, not enhance, that trust. The RWA brings publishers and publishing into disrepute.”[x]
- Hours after Elsevier withdrew its support, the legislative sponsors of the Research Works Act indicated that they would no longer push for the bill’s legislative passage, hearing and heeding the voice of countless concerned citizens.[xi]
But the job is not finished—Write and contact your representatives to support the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA, H.R. 4004/S. 2069).
- Support H.R. 4004/S. 2096 (Federal Research Public Access Act).
- FRPAA would shorten the time to public access to no more than six months.
- At the same time, FRPAA would mandate other key federal agencies beyond NIH to grant public access to taxpayer-funded research.
- [i] Bennof, Richard J. Proposed Federal R&D Funding for FY 2011 Dips to $143 Billion, with Cuts in National Defense R&D. InfoBrief. Washington, DC: National Science Foundation, September 2010. Available at: link
- [ii] The NIH Public Access Policy, February 2012. Available at: link
- [iii] Fox, Susannah. The Social Life of Health Information, 2011. Washington, DC: Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, May 12, 2011. Available at: link
- [iv] Examples of single article purchase prices come from the New England Journal of Medicine ($15 at nejm.org) and from The Lancet ($31.50 at lancet.com)
- [v] Press Release, "Publishers Applaud ‘Research Works Act,’ Bipartisan Legislation to End Government Mandates on Private-Sector Scholarly Publishing," December 23, 2011. Available at: link
- [vi] Howard, Jennifer. "University Presses Disagree with Publishers Group on Bill to Curb Public Access." The Chronicle of Higher Education, January 17, 2012.
- [vii] Press Release, "Nature Publishing Group and Digital Science joint statement on Research Works Act," January 18, 2012. Available at: link
- [viii] Press Release, "AAAS Does Not Endorse the Research Works Act," January 18, 2012. Available at: link
- [ix] Press Release, "ElSevier Withdraws Support for the Research Works Act," February 27, 2012. Available at: link
- [x] "The Research Works Act: a damaging threat to science." The Lancet January 2012; 379(9813): 288. Available at: link
- [xi] "News out of DC: RIP Research Works Act," Blog Post by Alexander Howard, February 27, 2012. Available at: link