The Open Access legal issue

On January 24th an editorial entitled Supporting the advancement of science: Open access publishing and the role of mandates, written by Lisa Phelps, Bernard Fox and Francesco M Marincola, has been published on Journal of Translational Medicine (JTM). It deals with a very relevant issue which could undermine the survival of the Open Access system: the introduction of a new bill at the United States House of Representatives,the Research Works Act (H.R.3699).

Open Access information is a key factor for fast and global diffusion of knowledge, a relevant aspect for socio-cultural matters, but extremely crucial for life science and public health issues. The global village we live in needs global information. If barriers are not able to stop HIV/AIDS sexual spreading (as clearly shown to countries that were proposing VISA qualification approval based on HIV- positivity), much less can be done to stop air-transmitted infectious diseases. As a paradigm the 2000 Ebola outbreak in Gulu (Northern of Uganda), which could be a very clear lesson: a rare event in a remote village could be spread to the whole world in few hours by intercontinental traveling. Only knowledge and determination allowed Dr Matthew Lukwiya to identify the deadly infection and keep on site all the health workers (including western foreigners), otherwise the Ebola outbreak would have gone global.

Are we sure that it is in the interest of any country to keep science confined to a limited number of privileged people within an ivory tower? The fundamental motivation for starting Infectious Agents and Cancer in an Open Access system has been to make sure that any person in the world interested in such field can freely read scientific articles and at the same time to offer to any scientists the possibility to publish their ideas and solid results, particularly from developing countries, where pathogen-related cancers represent a relevant component of the global cancer burden in their population.

Here is reported the JTM abstract, available at http://www.translational-medicine.com/content/10/1/13/abstract,  

In December 2011 the United States House of Representatives introduced a new bill, the Research Works Act (H.R.3699), which if passed could threaten the public’s access to US government funded research. In a digital age when professional and lay parties alike look more and more to the online environment to keep up to date with developments in their fields, does this bill serve the best interests of the community? Those in support of the Research Works Act argue that government open access mandates undermine peer-review and take intellectual property from publishers without compensation, however journals like Journal of Translational Medicine show that this is not the case. Journal of Translational Medicine in affiliation with the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer demonstrates how private and public organisations can work together for the advancement of science.

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