Thursday, June 7, 2012

Tax-Payer Funded Research: Shouldn't We Have Access?

Test tubes in rack with analyticsby Pat Cotey

Today, I signed the “We the People” petition to require free internet access to scientific journal articles that are published using taxpayer-funded research. I was signer number 25,731. Not as impressive as being one of the signers of the Consitution or the Declaration of Independence, but my opinion is being counted. Maybe collectively, our signatures will gather the support we need to make scientific research more accessible to everday folks as well as researchers. An official response from the White House is a great start, and with over 25K signatures, that will happen.

The National Institute of Health has already taken this step to open data access. And it has been wildly successful in sharing the publications and results of its researchers across the world.  Individuals struggling to make sense of a medical diagnosis of a loved one can now search through NIH peer-reviewed journal articles to find pertinent information or better understand clinical trial options. Articles are deposited in PubMed Central and include all published manuscripts of NIH-supported research. Manuscripts are added not later than 12 months after publication.

"We are now capable of taking individual discoveries and integrating them with all other research findings—both publications and data. Scientists can connect the dots between discoveries instantly, an advance analogous to moving from searching for fingerprint matches manually to matching prints in a database of millions in an instant."1 

Elias A. Zerhouni, MD, Director NIH, US Dept. of Health and Human Services

As the cost of scholarly journals escalates, libraries are facing the need to cut back on subscriptions, forcing researchers to pay high fees of $30–$50 per article to access information and data that may be of pertinent value to the next breakthrough. Access to all tax-payer funded research would open an enormous wealth of information to scientists, researchers, educators, patients and the interested public. Why are we making innovations more difficult by limiting access to data that could move us forward?

What are your thoughts on public access of tax-payer funded research? I urge you to consider signing the “We the People” petition. The petition has already reached the 25,000 signature mark within the 30 day time period so it gets an official Administration response. Let’s double the effort and send an even stronger message. We have until June 30th, so click here to sign,


1. Excerpt from Public Access Policy of the National Institutes of Health Statement, Sept. 11, 2008,