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Congress wants to limit your access to research—even though your tax dollars paid for it. If this bill passes, you’ll learn only what mainstream medicine wishes you to know. Action Alert!
In 2008, the National Institutes of Health required that all federally funded research publications be made openly available. PubMedCentral (PMC) is a free full-text archive of biomedical and life sciences journal literature at the National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine.
The publishers of the journals weren’t so happy with this new arrangement—they were afraid no one would pay for their publications if the research results were immediately accessible. So the government agreed to give them a full year of journal sales before their research papers had to be posted on PMC, which lets them keep their subscriber base. Journal subscriptions to educational and medical institutions are expensive—and they’re big business.
But even this generous arrangement isn’t good enough for the Association of American Publishers (AAP). The trade group liked the old rules, where they could sell the tax-funded research back to the taxpayers. So the AAP got two members of Congress, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), to introduce HR 3699, the Research Works Act, just before the end of 2011.
This bill would prevent the NIH or any other agency from causing or even allowing private-sector research work to be disseminated online without prior consent of both the publisher and the study authors—even if the funding came from our tax dollars.
The AAP weren’t the only publishers involved. Elsevier—the Reed Elsevier Publishing Group, a multinational company that publishes around 2,000 journals and close to 20,000 books and major reference works—happens to be in Rep. Carolyn Maloney’s district, and Elsevier employees made campaign contributions to both Issa and Maloney. (Apparently, it only takes $10,500 to buy two members of Congress.)
Said contributors all work for Tom Reller, vice president for global corporate relations at Elsevier. Interestingly, an email about the bill from Rep. Maloney to one of her critics contained language that was nearly identical to language used by Reller when he was defending the same bill! Are members of Congress employing lobbyists as ghostwriters now?
This is about access to peer-reviewed scientific information—research that we pay for with our tax money. If this bill passes, Americans who want to read the results of federally funded research will have to buy access to each journal article individually—at a cost of $15 or $30 apiece. In other words, as the New York Times recently noted, taxpayers who already paid for the research would have to pay again to read the results.
Access to peer-reviewed scientific research is essential if you are to make informed choices regarding your family’s health—especially if you choose complementary and alternative medicine. Good research will let us choose wisely when it comes to questions of treatment modalities, vaccines, diet, nutrition, and medicine. Right now, supplement companies aren’t even allowed to tell you about the science behind their products, so we must get the scientific information directly from the source.
But that’s just the problem: consumers, integrative doctors, and small businesses might not have the funds to access all these scientific journals—which means your access to the science behind natural products will be limited to what mainstream medicine may wish you to know.
PMC compiles entire studies and has 2.3 million articles going back to 1965. It allows patients, physicians, students, teachers, and advocacy organization like ANH-USA to read about and cite the discoveries that our tax dollars paid for—to keep you informed in these pages, we may review as many as a hundred studies every year. If we needed to pay a publishing company every time we viewed a study which taxpayers have already paid for, we’d be giving thousands of dollars to a publishing company every year instead of protecting your access to natural health.
So what can you do? Two things will make a huge difference!
- First, help us gain co-sponsors for the Free Speech about Science Act (FSAS). This landmark legislation enables the natural health products community to share peer-reviewed scientific findings about natural health products with the public. The problem, of course, is that if it becomes more difficult for supplement companies and consumers to access the scientific studies themselves, the entire point of FSAS is effectively undermined.
- The second step is to ask Congress to defeat this new Research Works Act. Please send your message today and explain why limiting access to the results of important studies—which your tax dollars have already paid for—is such a terrible idea. Take action immediately!