We’ve been tracking H.R. 801 – The Fair Copyright in Research Works Act introduced by Rep. John Conyers for the last few months. You may remember that the bill would reverse the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Public Access Policy regarding public access to taxpayer-funded research and make it impossible for other federal agencies to put similar policies into place. Lawrence Lessig has been public about his criticism of the bill and ALA has created a call to action to oppose H.R. 801.
Now Harvard University has released the March 2 letter it sent to its Congressional delegation, in support of the NIH policy and opposing the Conyers bill. Open Access News has reproduced the letter in its entirety:
We write to express our support for the widest possible access by the public and government to research results that have been government funded. Broadening access to government-funded research is in the best interest of the government, the researchers, and the general public. At Harvard, we have ourselves recently undertaken a range of activities to provide free and unfettered access to the scholarly research results of our faculty and students and to the unique collections in our library as part of our mission to disseminate knowledge for the benefit of the public, and continue to work toward openness in our activities.
Recently, Representative Conyers introduced H.R. 801, the “Fair Copyright in Research Works Act”. This legislation would limit access by the public to research that they have funded through government grants. It would overturn the NIH public access policy that guarantees access to NIH-funded research through PubMed Central, and would disallow extension of this policy to other government agencies.
The NIH public access policy has meant that all Americans have access to the important biomedical research results that they have funded through NIH grants. Some 3,000 articles in the life sciences are added to this invaluable public resource each month because of the NIH policy, and one million visitors a month use the site to take advantage of these research papers. The policy respects copyright law and the valuable work of scholarly publishers.
We strongly urge that you oppose H.R. 801. Rather than overturning the NIH policy that Congress mandated in 2007, Congress should broaden the mandate to other agencies, by passing the Federal Research Public Access Act first introduced in 2006. Doing so would increase transparency of government and of the research that it funds, and provide the widest availability of research results to the citizens who funded it.
The letter is signed by Steven E. Hyman, Provost; Robert Darnton, Director of the Harvard University Library; and Stuart M. Shieber, Faculty Director of the Office for Scholarly Communication.