Re: E-Biomed: Very important NIH Proposal

From: Thomas J. Walker <tjw_at_GNV.IFAS.UFL.EDU>
Date: Thu, 13 May 1999 10:47:33 -0400

Here is the current draft of what I intend to send Varmus. Any comments?
Your E-biomed proposal will help the biomedical community understand the
advantages of barrier-free Web access to the refereed journal literature.
Once biomedical researchers understand the advantages, they will no longer
tolerate the status quo and will promote E-biomed.

However, the change will be slowed if commercial publishers and some
scientific societies retain the hope that they can continue to generate
most of their revenues by charging researchers and research libraries for
access to the journal literature. This hope will cause them to actively
oppose E-biomed.

You can quicken the shift to free access by requiring NIH-supported
researchers to post their manuscripts on E-biomed at the time they submit
them to the journals they choose and by requiring that the refereed version
be made publicly Web-accessible on E-biomed within one year of publication.
 The precedent for requiring that publicly supported research be publicly
accessible is clear. Articles published by federally employed researchers
remain in the public domain by law.

The reason for giving a one-year grace period before the refereed versions
must be freely Web accessible is twofold. (1) It allows publishers to
maintain or greatly slow the loss of subscription revenue so long as paper
remains the archived format. Subscriptions will continue because
researchers want the refereed versions of articles as soon as possible and
research libraries will continue to provide such access. (2) It offers
publishers a means to smooth the transition from the present users-pay
system to a future authors-pay system. The permitted delay of a year
allows publishers to charge authors for immediate posting to E-biomed.
Many NIH-sponsored researchers would pay the charge because it would make
the formatted, refereed, archived version of their articles freely Web
accessible at least a year sooner than otherwise, and it would save them
the trouble of complying with NIH's requirement to post the refereed
version in some other fashion. Publishers could charge for this service
what the market would bear, but, until their subscription revenues are
threatened by all or nearly all authors paying for immediate free access,
they will likely keep the price modest. A modest price will entice more
authors to pay for a service that costs publishers next to nothing to

The price of immediate free Web access to the refereed version will
eventually influence which journals authors choose for their manuscripts.
If subscriptions to a journal decline because all or nearly all authors
started buying immediate free access, the publisher would have to raise the
price for such access, or cut costs. Those of us who predict free access
to the journal literature after paper publication stops see competition in
the status of journals and in the prices of their services (largely
refereeing?) as the way to an efficient system for certifying published
research results.

In summary, your proposal that authors retain the copyright to their
articles is the wedge that should convince all parties that Web access to
research literature will become barrier free. By allowing NIH authors to
delay a year before posting their refereed versions on E-biomed, you will
give publishers more time to adjust to the fact that E-biomed will
revolutionize the biomedical journal literature and the roles of publishers
and libraries in providing access to it.

Thomas J. Walker
Department of Entomology & Nematology
University of Florida, PO Box 110620, Gainesville, FL 32611-0620
E-mail: FAX: (352)392-0190
Received on Wed Feb 10 1999 - 19:17:43 GMT

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