Oral Statement

Martin Frank, Ph.D.

Executive Director, American Physiological Society
Coordinator, DC Principles Coalition

Hearing on HR 6845 — the Fair Copyright in Research Works Act
Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property

September 11, 2008 at 1:00 pm
Room 2141, Rayburn House Office Building


Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to testify today.  I am Martin Frank, Executive Director of the American Physiological Society and Coordinator of the DC Principles Coalition.  Previously I was a research scientist, academic and an extramural administrator at the NIH.

I have submitted testimony in support of HR 6845 and will highlight some of the issues raised in those comments.

HR 6845 will help ensure that the Federal government does not diminish copyright protections for journal articles in which private-sector publishers have made a significant value-added contribution.  By protecting copyright, the Act will continue to provide incentives for investment in the peer review process which helps ensure the quality and integrity of scientific research. 

The APS is a not-for-profit society founded in 1887. Our first journal, the American Journal of Physiology, dates to 1898. 

The DC Principles Coalition was founded in 2004 by not-for-profit publishers who believe in free access to science and who make the full text of their journals freely available within the constraints of their business and publishing requirements.  The Coalition is a diverse group, comprised of 73 publishers.  We publish nearly 400 journals, ranging from top-tier medical and research to small niche publications.  Because we are so different, the Coalition has always supported its members’ desire to make their own decisions on when to make their content freely available. Some opt for free access after 2 years, others after 2 months because one policy does not fit the needs of all publishers. 

Many of the DC Principles Coalition members work with HighWire Press, the world’s largest repository of high impact, peer reviewed scientific content, including 2 million free articles. 

Coalition members also provide access for scientists in the developing world by participating in WHO initiatives such as HINARI and AGORA.  Patients can get access to our journals via “Patient Request” links and through PatientInform, a publisher initiative designed to provide patient access to research articles and commentaries relevant to their medical conditions.

As scholarly publishers, it is our mission to maintain and enhance the independence, rigor and trust, and the visibility that have established our journals as reliable filters of information emanating from basic and clinical research.  We do so through the peer review process that evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of submitted manuscripts selecting those that meet the journals’ high standards for publication. 

Some say that funding agencies have rights to the articles written by their grantees.  While the agencies pay for the research, the publisher bears the cost of peer review and publishing.  Articles should not be taken from those of us who have invested heavily in their creation.  By imposing a mandatory policy without oversight by responsible Congressional committees, NIH has diminished a basic principle under copyright – namely, the right to control the distribution of the works we publish. 

The NIH could have provided access to its funded research without diminishing copyright protections.  It could have followed Congress’s direction under the America COMPETES Act which authorized NSF to provide access to research reports, summaries of journal articles and citations to the copyrighted articles, rather than the articles themselves.  Alternatively, it could have worked with publishers to provide access through existing links associated with journal article abstracts posted on PubMed.

Under the Mandatory Policy, NIH has become a publisher.  It has created a platform that competes with not-for-profit and commercial publishers alike.  It takes the article after the publisher has done the heavy lifting of validating the science through the costly and time consuming peer review process.  NIH’s next step is to enhance this content further by linking it to databases and resources not readily available to small publishers. 

As PubMed Central becomes “an increasingly valuable – and singular- resource” as envisioned by Ms. Joseph, it becomes more likely that journal subscribers will opt to access articles from NIH’s website, rather than the journal’s.  This will lead to subscription cancellations, as suggested by studies discussed in my written testimony. 

We are gravely concerned that the funding base of some journals may be eroded to the point where they can no longer adequately serve their scholarly communities. Some may be forced to increase their authors’ fees at a time when funding for research is shrinking.  As a result, researchers will be disadvantaged – in one case by having less freedom to choose where to publish, or what community to reach, and in the other, failing to have adequate resources to fund research designed to develop treatments and cures for disease as author fees eat away at the research dollars provided by Congress.

Thank you.