11:21 PM

Publishers Express Concern over Government Mandates on Journal Articles

WASHINGTON, DC July 29, 2010 — The Association of American Publishers (AAP) warned today that government mandates requiring free access to journal articles published by the private sector would seriously undermine scientific communication, as well as U.S. jobs, exports and copyright protection. In testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Allan Adler, AAP’s Vice President for Legal and Government Affairs, stressed that efforts to impose mandates were based on lack of understanding of the distinction between the “research” that is funded by the Federal government and the private-sector journal articles that validate and document the process, findings and significance of that research.

“Most of the two to three million manuscripts submitted to publishers each year, including those that result from Federally-funded grants, do not meet publishers’ quality standards on the first pass through the peer review process,” Mr. Adler said. “Before they can be validated and disseminated as a journal article, manuscripts must be screened, revised per reviewers’ comments, edited and formatted for hosting and preservation on an electronic platform which allows delivery through multiple distribution channels in paper and digital formats -- all of which requires substantial investment by the publisher,” he continued. “Publishers invest hundreds of millions of dollars every year in the screening, peer review, editing and production of these journal articles. It is unfair for the government to expropriate these private-sector products without compensation and make them available free.”

The AAP testimony described the inevitable unintended consequences of mandated public access.

  • Policies that require publishers’ work to be made freely available online enable foreign governments, corporations and others to use U.S. publishers’ output without compensation. Companies in China, for example, are even re-selling the peer-reviewed manuscripts and articles that publishers are now required to post on the NIH’s PubMed Central database.
  • The subscription revenues that pay the cost of scientific publishing are seriously compromised when articles are available free on a government website.
  • Mandates diminish the copyright protection that allows publishers to invest in publishing. This kind of government intrusion into the free market creates a harmful precedent for many other U.S. industries whose viability depends on the ability to develop and protect their intellectual property.

“Publishers strongly support efforts to ensure broad access to the results of publicly-funded research,” Mr. Adler said, “but government mandates are not the way to go.” He added, “There are better approaches that have already proven effective in ensuring public access to Federally-funded research without the negative unintended consequences.” Researchers themselves report high levels of satisfaction with their ability to access journals, and public access has expanded dramatically as a result of publisher initiatives that have enhanced access for patients, the public and disabled people, as well as researchers in the developing countries.

About AAP

The Association of American Publishers (AAP) represents about four hundred member organizations including major commercial, digital learning and education and professional publishers alongside independents, non-profits, university presses and scholarly societies. We represent the industry’s priorities on policy, legislative and regulatory issues regionally, nationally and worldwide. These include the protection of intellectual property rights and worldwide copyright enforcement, digital and new technology issues, funding for education and libraries, tax and trade, censorship and literacy. Find us online at www.publishers.org or on twitter at @AmericanPublish.