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Library - Special Announcement

You won! Why protecting your rights to your own work is so important

You may have seen coverage in the media lately of the Research Works Act, a bill introduced to the US Congress back in December around the same time as SOPA. The Research Works Act contains provisions to prohibit open access mandates for federally funded research. This would overturn the NIH's Public Access Policy, which requires all taxpayer-funded research to be freely accessible online. It would also severely restrict the sharing of scientific data---something that many of us have been trying to encourage for some time.

The bill received bipartisan support in Congress, and some commentators suggested this might have something to do with large campaign donations from Elsevier, the world’s largest scientific publisher. Many scientists are concerned that not having immediate access to the results of medical research in particular could lead to costly and unnecessary replication of experiments, and even patient deaths.

If enacted, the bill would completely revolutionise the way you work as an academic. Trade agreements between Australia and the US mean that provisions from the Act could find their way into Australian law. This would be a terrible shame as the NHMRC has just announced that like the NIH, it will require all publications from projects it funds to be freely available online 12 months after publication.

Libraries, open access groups and academics around the world have been speaking out against the bill, signing a mass petition to boycott Elsevier products. As a result, Elsevier has just announced it will withdraw support for the legislation, citing concerns from journal authors, editors and reviewers. I know that for you as academics, it often feels as though the publishers are in a position of power because you need to keep publishing to ensure grants and promotions. But this announcement shows that publishers have just realised how integral your contribution is to the ongoing success of the academic publishing system, and just how much change you can bring about by standing up for your rights as authors. Congratulations!

This column is written by Rebecca Parker, your very happy Research Services Librarian. Contact me at