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California Bill Would Mandate Open Access To Publicly Funded Research 105

ectoman writes "This week, advocates of open access to publicly funded research are keeping an eye on California's Taxpayer Access to Publicly Funded Research Act (AB 609), which could soon find its way to the California State Senate. The bill requires the final copy of any peer-reviewed research funded by California tax dollars to be made publicly accessible within 12 months of publication. If passed, the legislation would become the first state-level law mandating this kind of access. is featuring a collection of articles on open access publishing, which you can read while you await the verdict on AB 609."
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California Bill Would Mandate Open Access To Publicly Funded Research

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  • by Terry Pearson ( 935552 ) on Thursday May 30, 2013 @11:35AM (#43861381) Journal
    We pay for it, why should some private party reap the rewards?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by gstoddart ( 321705 )

      Why, for profit of course.

      If we let any old schmuck access it, that could undermine the ability to patent research paid for by someone else and/or be first to market.

      And not charging for the access would put the publishers out of business, and we can't lose their valuable contributions to science.

      Don't you know the role of publicly financed research is to enrich corporations? Why do you hate America?

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Someone has to take the research papers to give to the people! You don't want the scientists talking with the people! We have people skills!

      • by RabidReindeer ( 2625839 ) on Thursday May 30, 2013 @12:15PM (#43861905)

        Why, for profit of course.

        If we let any old schmuck access it, that could undermine the ability to patent research paid for by someone else and/or be first to market.

        And not charging for the access would put the publishers out of business, and we can't lose their valuable contributions to science.

        Don't you know the role of publicly financed research is to enrich corporations? Why do you hate America?

        That's right!

        If it loses money, socialize it and use it as proof that government is a failure.

        If it makes money, privatize it, give it to the Job Creators, and trumpet it as a triumph of the free market.

        • by moeinvt ( 851793 )

          The ability of corporations to generate massive profits through government bailouts, handouts and subsidies IS proof that government is a failure and a fundamentally corrupt institution.

          If government is NOT a failure, then how is the arrangement you describe even possible?

          • Yes, but this is a case of government trying to fix itself.

            The point he was making is that there will be public outcry about this from some corners, and those people are retarded.

          • by Jawnn ( 445279 )
            The government, as bought and paid for by an ever-increasing stream of corporate money, is a big success. Huge, even. That it no longer serves the populace that it was created to serve is indicative of the failure of that populace to recognize this state of affairs and to care enough to do something about that. Instead, we have spent the better part of the last three decades dithering about things like gay marriage, gun control, and abortion.
    • If you think that anything of any commercial value is going to be published without a "patent applied for/patent #xxxx" already attached, and/or a spinoff company founded by one or more of the authors, then you're not paying any attention at all to history. Silicon Valley is full of companies started by Stanford docs and post-docs, as a simple example.
    • Not saying this is a bad idea, but you reap the rewards via invented cures and whatnot. Government isn't the only one investing in most of this, and you may slow things down by eviscerating exclusivity.

      The cure is the reward.

    • by jythie ( 914043 ) on Thursday May 30, 2013 @12:28PM (#43862065)
      Well, the devil is in the details. Often public money only covers part of the cost of research. Both private entities and universities themselves (from licensing revenue) frequently contribute funds to various projects too.

      That being said, I suspect this bill would have little negative impact. Journals might worry about institutions that normally would pay for their services going free, but a 12 month delay is pretty significant so I suspect any place that currently pays for access cares enough to want the latest feed.
      • If the research develops into a marketable product, patents would protect them from other companies.

        If the research doesn't pan out, then nothing is lost.

        As for fund sharing, if Cali funds 20% of research that goes on to become the next Cisco, Google, etc, then Cali should get 20% of the company stock. Or get a 20% cut of quarterly revenue.

    • I think this argument works better for patents on drugs, software, and data more than it does for the research papers. If I develop a great new cancer drug using a grant paid for by taxpayers, it's all fine and good if I publish the research paper on how I found it in an open access journal. But if I then turn around and patent it (or rather, my host research institution patents it) and licenses it to some big pharmecutical who gets the exclusive rights to it and sells it back to the taxpayers at a steep
  • Great concept! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by applematt84 ( 1135009 ) on Thursday May 30, 2013 @11:38AM (#43861411) Homepage
    I love the idea of research being available when funded by public resources. I always hear about research that is being performed, but I never know where to go to read the final report. If I do find a report it usually costs money.
    • FWIW, a couple of years ago the NSF added a new requirement that funding proposals must include a dissemination plan. I think we'll continue seeing (slow) improvement in this.

      Meanwhile, if you can find out the researchers' names, and think of a couple of keywords to filter out false hits, there's a very good chance you can find the results of the research using a search engine.

      Google Scholar is also a good way to filter out a lot of irrelevant hits.

    • by jythie ( 914043 )
      Generally you can go to a library.

      This bill makes it easier for people 'on the go' to access the research, but it does not change the fundamental accessibility since the majority of journals have always been available at libraries and such. This opens up individual (read: web) access so you can read it on your personal computer or mobile device.
    • A lot of material is available for free. A lot of what we publish at SLAC (and probably other DOE lab) is available for free from our publications sites, (eg SLAC Pubs) Unfortunately those sites rank much lower than the refereed journals in google searches so many people probably can't find them. Most researchers would be very happy to publish in free sites if we could somehow fix the problem of funding and promotions being based on the number of publications in "high impact" journals.

    • Re:Great concept! (Score:4, Informative)

      by blueg3 ( 192743 ) on Thursday May 30, 2013 @12:48PM (#43862353)

      Useful tip: Once you find the abstract (usually on a pay site), search Google for the paper title and authors. Google Scholar is particularly useful here. Find the preprint copy of the paper, which is usually hosted on an author's Web site or on a site like arXiv. Download that.

      If you really want to read a paper and can't find a preprint, e-mail one of the authors and ask for a preprint PDF.

    • In principle, I'm all for using public money to "commission" public works/research etc.

      On the other hand, a lot of public money is offered as seedcorn to help establish ongoing viable income streams. IE. we give you funding now, but not forever.

      Right now it's "we give you funding now and forever", but perhaps a mix of the other two would be best...? The government can commission research as public property OR give a grant that allows the research institute to keep the profits on the understanding that the

  • Something reasonable finally coming from the California Legislature. Let see how well the (D) can screw this up, by exempting their buddies.

    • by flatt ( 513465 )

      Hardly. While a bill like this makes perfect sense at the national level, all this does is encourage moving even more high quality jobs out of state.

      • Possibly. But there are only so many tax dollars in every state. "You can have our tax dollars, but only if you agree to these restrictions on your behavior" is a favorable situation to "We wouldn't put restrictions on your behavior if we gave you tax dollars, but we're all out of them. Sorry."

        Scientists always talk about how hard it is to get grant money. If there's money to be had in California, there will be people doing research there, regardless of publishing restrictions.

        • by jythie ( 914043 )
          I had forgotten about that element. Getting enough grant money to both do research AND eat has become increasingly difficult as it is. Additional requirements, esp requirements that might alienate other funding sources (since a great deal of research is not purely public money) could result in it being even more difficult to get anything viable done.
        • by flatt ( 513465 )

          True. Researchers (or more correctly, organizations that hire researchers) will just try to get funding in every other state first (where they can have their cake and eat it too) and then come to California. If they find it elsewhere, they will leave. Eventually, the type of research that will be done in CA will be self-selected in that there were no issues with open access to begin with. Perhaps this is acceptable, I don't know.

  • by vikingpower ( 768921 ) on Thursday May 30, 2013 @11:39AM (#43861439) Homepage Journal
    Free and unlimited access to publicly funded research should already, without a law to enforce it, be a fact. So it is here in Europe, at least.
    • by blueg3 ( 192743 ) on Thursday May 30, 2013 @12:51PM (#43862381)

      Free and unlimited access to publicly funded research should already, without a law to enforce it, be a fact. So it is here in Europe, at least.

      Yeah! That's a change [] the European Union made weeks ago.

      The policy change brings the EU in line with the U.S. and Australia, which both recently made open-access publishing mandatory for any papers that received government funding.


  • $1 Grant (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mdmkolbe ( 944892 ) on Thursday May 30, 2013 @11:44AM (#43861483)

    If this passes, I would like to apply for a $1 grant even though I am not in California. Some publishers allow open access only when required by law and this would give me leverage. (As an academic it is in my interests to have my articles as easily accessible as possible. I never see a dime from the paywalls on my published articles.)

    • Someone should try and get a meta grant for just this sort of thing thus making is much easier to to force publishers hands.
    • The problem with this approach is that it only works in cases where the researcher already has the clout to publish open-access in the first place. You clearly want to publish open-access --- as any academic will. But why don't you already? Perhaps because there are pressures "from above" to publish-or-perish in particular prestigious (but closed) journals. Any researcher who is currently "unable" to publish open access because of forces against their will would still be unable with $1 California grants bei

      • Something you and a few other commenters seem to have missed is that many publishers already have policies that allow Open Access (or some sort or another) if it is required by a researcher's funding agency. What they don't allow is Open Access just because an author wants it.

    • it is in my interests to have my articles as easily accessible as possible

      You can already just send your article out for free on the internet. You don't because, although you may not see a dime from the paywall, the journals offer credibility/exposure - and they know you have to publish to make tenure.

      Some publishers allow open access only when required by law and this would give me leverage.

      All this means is they'll stop accepting your work if it requires compliance with this new law. More likely, you'll

      • They'll never know whether it was because of the California law or just dull results.

        The peer review process is separate from the publication process. One is run by volunteers from academia. The other is run by employees of the publisher. You'll absolutely know if they try to blackball you due to your funding sources. (My apologies if I'm misreading you.)

        Lastly, even if it cuts out half the research, most for-profit journals would rather do that than all the revenue.

        I don't know how it is in other areas, but the publishers in my area wouldn't survive the backlash if half the submissions were barred from publication over this. The social dynamics at play are subtle, but if even 10% of articles acce

    • On a slightly more serious note, I wonder if California could start a series of grants just to pay for the "author-pays" fee ($2000-$8000 depending on publisher). Some publishers are typically closed, but allow an author to make a particular article Open Access if they pay this fee. Unfortunately, paying that fee could enough of a barrier to prevent young researchers without enough money from choosing Open Access (especially if they are publishing multiple papers per year), but a grant to cover just that

  • by Picass0 ( 147474 ) on Thursday May 30, 2013 @11:50AM (#43861577) Homepage Journal

    I would like to see the next step be that products, medicines, and continued research utilizing public research as a starting point should all be prohibited from utilizing patents.

  • This will save California money by reducing the number of grant requests. This is a great way to get the same result!

    Despite how I feel about the openness of public funded research there will be those that will seek other sources of funding. In this case, you'd say "good riddance!"

    Now if California was to openly state that they wanted to cut funding to research grants by 20%, you'd be very angry right now.

    • by TechHSV ( 864317 )
      I always assumed that professors made money off of this stuff somehow. Maybe they were paid to do the reviews of articles submitted by others in their field, or something similar. Is this not the case?
      • If their is money to be made, I assume it's from their employer commercializing their work and not from creating or peer reviewing papers.
      • by Anonymous Coward


        In fact, when you submit a manuscript to a journal, the author usually pays the journal either at submission or acceptance. This money typically comes from grant funding.

        The editors of discipline-specific journals are usually not paid by the publisher. Rather, they do it as part of the service component of their job as a professor or researcher. Some top journals like Nature and Science have professional editors, and a few discipline-specific journals pay editors a stipend.

        The reviewers never g

      • Reviews are unpaid and (in my field) usually anonymous. I think *some* journal editorships are paid, but I know not all of them are.

        There are two ways for research professors to benefit financially _as_ professors: getting grants, and moving up the university hierarchy. Both of these are likelier if one's papers are (1) in high-status journals and (2) much cited. The not-open high-status journals are leaning on (1) really hard to prevent everyone posting all their papers to make (2) easier.

        There's a slower

    • It really is just as well, public funds should serve the public good I hope the whole USA follows suit. If you are working on something proprietary seek private funds.
      • I reread the actual bill. It seems vague about the invention part. It seems to do nothing more than force the researcher to make their published paper available for free to the public. This is pretty much the norm for the people I work with so I don't see it changing that much. Except, I did notice the requirement to publish the paper even if it isn't peer-reviewed in 12 months. So I do see a possible side effect of non-peer reviewed work being posted by universities and possibly being used by the general p
  • An unintended consequence could well be to make it harder for researchers without a lot of funding (i.e. grad students, post docs) to publish. Publishers often offer the choice between paying them to publish it open access (several hundred dollars), or publishing it for free behind a paywall (a paywall that most researchers don't see because of institutional subscriptions). So, most of the work of my dissertation is technically behind a paywall because I had to.

    Of course it's also on the preprint sever (htt

    • I could set up a publishing site on the web and have it funded using online ads. I'll call it Some material will be age/education level restricted.
  • Academics will still need to publish in the high-impact journals, the journals know this, and the prices for them to provide open access will go up. More and more of the money supposed to fund research will be funnelled instead to support the publishers. It's already happening elsewhere where this kind of thing is mandated. You can mandate open access but I bet you can't mandate a reasonable price from the publishers.
    • I was just thinking the same thing. Open access is great! Who's paying for it? The costs of my last publication were nearly $3000 because I chose open access. I'm lucky to have the funds to do it at the moment.

      I hope that this action is backed up with sufficient support to actually publish as open access. Somehow I suspect maybe not.

  • Academic publishers have had a very long and profitable run, and are now fighting back against the free flow of information that they once thrived upon. They are fighting a losing game.

    Publication has now become essentially cost free, the only costs being those to maintain the online information resources, and the time invested to review. Since reviewers were never paid in the past, and because data storage and access are incredibly inexpensive, and becoming even less expensive, and because finding and re

  • While I agree whole-heartedly with open science/open access, most public research in California is federally funded, not state funded. Although some institutes, like the NIH, require publication to journals, the journals themselves can and do have commercial policies. This is where real battle is currently being waged.

  • I work at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), a large (4000-person) Department of Energy research lab that is, unfortunately but understandably, often confused with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. We get lots of funding from DoE, of course, but also from other federal and state agencies.

    Almost all of the work we do is published in the form of "LBNL reports", most of which are freely available, although hard to find. Much of the work is later published in scientific journals, and it is so

  • Instead of focusing on disclosure, the bills should focus on ownership. A patent application is a public disclosure. The universities will simply file more patents making their research less useful to and less owned by the general public.
  • by mx+b ( 2078162 ) on Thursday May 30, 2013 @04:04PM (#43864871)
    A similar bill exists at the federal level, Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act of 2013 (H.R. 708 and S. 350). It actually requires any research papers are in the public domain within 6 months of publication, which I think is great and long overdue. If public money paid for it, it belongs to the public! I contacted my congressmen's office to voice my support, and made the suggestion that research papers also be required to be available in an open format (such as plain ASCII text or OpenDocument where appropriate) to make sure research can be archived properly, but other than that, it is a short and simple bill with a good objective. Highly recommend everyone start hammering their representatives to get it done.
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