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Research Works Act: Latest Congressional Lie about Helping Small Business

I am pissed.

As a small business owner, I am feeling very, very disappointed that there is certainly some law out there that would impose penalties if I drove on over to Riverside County and bitch-slapped Darrell Issa. I’ve grown cynical enough in my old age and after having run a small business since 1985 that I am used to every politician under the sun spouting “Think of small business!” as a knee-jerk reaction to anything, whether their position is for it or against it. Usually, they are easy enough to ignore. Payroll taxes are not going to decide whether or not I hire people – business demand is. Health care – we’ve made that an option for our employees long before it was required by law.

This time, though, they are REALLY pissing me off. Let me tell you what the Research Works Act is and how it really does hurt my small business. As this succinct article by Janet Stemwedel on the Scientific American blog site explains well, not only does it require the American taxpayer (that’s me!) to pay twice for the same research, but also, the very people being protected and profiting are NOT those who produce the work to begin with.

Right now, if a person is funded by federal funds, say, the National Institutes of Health, they are required to submit the results of their research to PubMed’s repository within twelve months of publication. The idea is that if the public paid for this research then the public has the right to read it. Sounds fair, right?

In case you don’t know, rarely do authors get paid by journals.  I’ve published articles in the American Journal on Mental Retardation, Research in Developmental Disabilities, Educational and Psychological Measurement – to name a few. I’ve been a peer reviewer for Family Relations. For none of this did I get paid. That was fine. Almost all of the research I did was funded by federal funds and part of the grant proposals included dissemination – that is, publication of scientific articles. Fair enough. As a peer reviewer, I’m just repaying the service others have done in reviewing my work. Again, no problem.

Yet, in many cases, if I need a journal article for a grant or report I’m writing for a client, it is going to cost me $30 per article.  Contract research is a good bit of where the actual money comes into this company (you didn’t seriously think I made my living by drinking Chardonnay, spouting wanton programming advice and snarky comments, did you?)

The journal did not pay for the research to be conducted – the federal government did. The journal did not pay the author – the federal government did. The journal did not pay the reviewer – they volunteer.


I just pulled up a random small project I had done recently for a client and there were seven articles in there that I would be charged $210 to have used. As I said, this was a small project, and I calculated it would have brought the price up 7.5%

Not long ago, there was a huge outcry about the city of Santa Monica adding a ten cent cost for a paper bag and banning plastic bags. “It will hurt small business!” people cried. Actually, I have always made a major effort to shop at our local businesses, I still do and it has not hurt any business anywhere that I can tell. You know what else I can tell you? That increasing the cost of a $3,000 project to $3,210 is a hell of a lot more significant than paying ten cents for a paper bag!

So what exactly is this bill doing? It is moving money from small businesses, like me,  and like my buddy, Dr. Jacob Flores, who runs Mobile Medicine Outreach and into the hands of large publishing companies, who not coincidentally gave a huge amount of money  to Democratic congresswoman Carolyn Maloney of New York. I’d like to bitch-slap her, too, but being on the opposite side of the country, it would be a lot less convenient for me.

You can read more detail in this article from the Atlantic, where Rebecca Rosen asks, “Why Is Open-Internet Champion Darrell Issa Supporting an Attack on Open Science? ”

As Danah Boyd points out on her blog, there is this new thing for sharing knowledge now, called the Internet and a major point of the Research Works Act seems to be to prevent it being used to share knowledge that I paid for with the approximately 50%  of my income (yeah 38% federal, 10% state) that I pay in taxes. And you know what, being a graduate from that great institution, the University of California, that enables me to make the money to pay these taxes, I don’t object to that.

What I DO object to is paying again for the same resources I already paid for once just because some lobbyists for large corporations lined Issa’s and Maloney’s pockets.

While it may not be legal for me to bitch-slap Issa it is certainly legal for me to go to the next California event where that lying-ass mother has the balls to stand up and claim to be helping California small business. Anyone who knows the next public event where he’ll be speaking, please hit me up.

One thing, though, I don’t think I’ll be going to any of his fundraisers. I think he’s gotten quite enough money from the publishing industry.


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  1. See:
    “Research Works Act H.R.3699:
    The Private Publishing Tail Trying To Wag The Public Research Dog, Yet Again”



    The US Research Works Act (H.R.3699): “No Federal agency may adopt, implement, maintain, continue, or otherwise engage in any policy, program, or other activity that — (1) causes, permits, or authorizes network dissemination of any private-sector research work without the prior consent of the publisher of such work; or (2) requires that any actual or prospective author, or the employer of such an actual or prospective author, assent to network dissemination of a private-sector research work.”

    Translation and Comments:

    “If public tax money is used to fund research, that research becomes “private research” once a publisher “adds value” to it by managing the peer review.”

    [Comment: Researchers do the peer review for the publisher for free, just as researchers give their papers to the publisher for free, together with the exclusive right to sell subscriptions to it, on-paper and online, seeking and receiving no fee or royalty in return].

    “Since that public research has thereby been transformed into “private research,” and the publisher’s property, the government that funded it with public tax money should not be allowed to require the funded author to make it accessible for free online for those users who cannot afford subscription access.”

    [Comment: The author’s sole purpose in doing and publishing the research, without seeking any fee or royalties, is so that all potential users can access, use and build upon it, in further research and applications, to the benefit of the public that funded it; this is also the sole purpose for which public tax money is used to fund research.]”

    H.R. 3699 misunderstands the secondary, service role that peer-reviewed research journal publishing plays in US research and development and its (public) funding.

    It is a huge miscalculation to weigh the potential gains or losses from providing or not providing open access to publicly funded research in terms of gains or losses to the publishing industry: Lost or delayed research progress mean losses to the growth and productivity of both basic research and the vast R&D industry in all fields, and hence losses to the US economy as a whole.

    What needs to be done about public access to peer-reviewed scholarly publications resulting from federally funded research?

    The minimum policy is for all US federal funders to mandate (require), as a condition for receiving public funding for research, that: (i) the fundee’s revised, accepted refereed final draft of (ii) all refereed journal articles resulting from the funded research must be (iii) deposited immediately upon acceptance for publication (iv) in the fundee’’s institutional repository, with (v) access to the deposit made free for all (OA) immediately (no OA embargo) wherever possible (over 60% of journals already endorse immediate gratis OA self-archiving), and at the latest after a 6-month embargo on OA.

    It is the above policy that H.R.3699 is attempting to make illegal…


  2. Why do you need journal articles published in not final form 12 months after publication (which is the NIH policy)? Wouldn’t you benefit more from having access to research reports made available immediately on a government agency web site in their final form? The latter is what the government should be doing, not piggybacking on the contributions of the private sector that it does not compensate for its costs. As a small business owner, are you in favor of unfunded government mandates?

  3. I’m pretty sure that PubMed is a FUNDED government service so I am not sure where that last question comes in. I cannot imagine there is any noticeable cost from uploading your publications to PubMed. I can upload any article I have written to my server in seconds.

    Would I benefit more from having access to research reports immediately – rather than 12 months later? That would be nice, but realistically, I’m often working on a topic that someone else did research on a year or two ago, not a month ago. How many times is someone going to publish something and then I need that exact article within six months? It does happen, but not terribly often.

    What do you mean by “in their final form”? By contributions of the private sector, if you are suggesting that having an editor spell-check and review for grammar the final article that somehow would make it more useful to me as a basis for research and design, no it wouldn’t.

  4. Yeah, after reading your post, I couldn’t agree more.

    Who wouldn’t object to paying again for the same resources they’ve already paid for once, just because some lobbyists for large corporations lined Issa’s and Maloney’s pockets!

    Lobbyists make me sick and I really want to b1tch-slap those cretins. Small businesses are really struggling and this is the last thing we need!

  5. This is more than a little annoying. Usually you can find copies of journal articles on the author’s own website, or email them if you really want a copy.

    The hours I spent trawling the internet trying to find articles from which to write a thesis was bad enough. Now publicly funded data is being monetised as well?

    Slapping time 🙂

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