Yesterday I reported that MIT Press has distanced itself from the Research Works Act (RWA). The RWA is a new bill introduced into the House of Representatives at the end of last year that would reverse the US National Institutes of Health Public Access Policy requiring taxpayer-funded research to be made freely accessible online. It would also prevent other federal agencies from imposing similar requirements on their funded researchers.
The RWA is backed by the Association of American Publishers ( AAP ) and its Professional and Scholarly Division (PSP), which last December published a press release describing the bill as, “significant legislation that will help reinforce America’s leadership in scholarly and scientific publishing in the public interest and in the critical peer-review system that safeguards the quality of such research.”
If passed, however, the bill would be a major setback for the Open Access movement. As I noted yesterday, AAP has therefore been widely criticised for its support of the RWA, and some in the research community have called on members of the association to disavow both the bill and AAP’s support for it. There have also been calls for AAP members to resign in protest.
Today I received an email from ITHAKA, the non-profit organisation dedicated to helping the academic community take full advantage of information and networking technologies, and which includes JSTOR, the online service providing access to archived academic journals, and Portico, the electronic-archiving Initiative.
The email was in response to an enquiry I made a few days ago asking ITHAKA to comment on the RWA, and AAP’s support for it. It contained the following statement:
“A core principle of our organisation is to provide the broadest possible access to scholarly works in ways that are sustainable and account for their long term preservation. We have no intention of endorsing RWA. We also have no intention of leaving the AAP. We do not agree with them on every issue, but we value our membership, as we do our participation in a number of library and scholarly associations.”
Commenting on the news, Open Access advocate Peter Suber said, “I applaud ITHAKA for distancing itself from the harmful Research Works Act. The AAP acts in the name of its members when it lobbies for the RWA, in effect recruiting all its members as allies in a cause that not all of them support. Through their public statements, MIT Press and ITHAKA have refused to lend their weight to a policy they do not endorse.”