Stop HR3699; The Open Access movement needs to get ACTIVE; the Scholarly Poor already do

I have been blogging for a week about HR3699 (Research Works Act). I have been trying to take personal action – apart from blogging I have mailed OUP and CUP asking them to stand up and be counted on their membership of AAP.

Yet if I hadn’t been actively involved in open data I wouldn’t even have known anything was happening – that there was anything I should be concerned about. And no-one has tried to reach me and get me involved – even to sign a petition.

In contrast other Open movements such as F/OSS, Avaaz, 38 Degrees mail me every week asking me to sign on all sorts of issues. In the internet age it’s easy to reach out to people and provide means to get them involved.

I’ve searched for “stop HR 3699 petition” and the first site that comes up is

This is a site (Care2, Jennifer P. – I’d never come across it) for “ordinary people” who care about access to information, especially health information. They are the “scholarly poor”. The people who – unlike rich Universities – actually feel the lack of access to healthcare information.

As soon as I heard about HR3699 I mailed the patent advocates I knew. And, of course, they have responded magnificently. Here’s Gilles Frydman, through the Society for Participatory Medicine. The Scholarly poor with real disease.

Here’s Gilles:

Before reading further, remember the definition of Participatory Medicine:

a movement in which networked patients shift from being mere passengers to responsible drivers of their health, and in which providers encourage and value them as full partners.

How can you be a responsible driver of your health if you don’t have direct access to all information? That’s why Dave has been fighting for his damn data and similarly why ACOR has been engaged in multiple efforts to maximize the dissemination of any and all scientific publication that relates to an ACOR group condition.

Seeing a corrupt travesty of the democratic process used today to promote the interests of a few gatekeepers at the expense of millions of people is very disturbing. The NIH and other agencies must be allowed to ensure timely, public access to the results of research funded with taxpayer dollars. Please oppose H.R. 3699. You’ll be in great company!

And there’s lots more [I quote from Gilles]

Tim O’Reilly [PMR One of the great entrepreneurs and thinkers of this century] Please don’t write laws that protect 19th century industries against 21st-century disruption!

[Gilles: ]Tim’s […] sentence may need some explanation, which thankfully has been provided by Microsoft Researcher and grand guru of social media’s influence on the youth, danah boyd, in her December blog post Save Scholarly Ideas, Not the Publishing Industry (a rant):

The scholarly publishing industry used to offer a service. It used to be about making sure that knowledge was shared as broadly as possible to those who would find it valuable using the available means of distribution: packaged paper objects shipped through mail to libraries and individuals. It made a profit off of serving an audience. These days, the scholarly publishing industry operates as a gatekeeper, driven more by profits than by the desire to share information as widely as possible. It stopped innovating and started resting on its laurels. And the worst part about it? Scholars have bent over and let that industry continuously violate them and the university libraries that support them. [..]

WTF? How did academia become so risk-adverse? The whole point of tenure was to protect radical thinking. But where is the radicalism in academia? [PMR emphasis]

Ironically, of course, it’s the government who is trying to push back against the scholarly publishing’s stranglehold on scholarly knowledge. [..]

Please, I beg you, regardless of whether or not we can save a dying industry, let’s collectively figure out how to save the value that prompted its creation: making scholarly knowledge widely accessible.


PMR: Yes “where is the radicalism in academia?” Where is the radicalism in the Open Access movement? The OA movement is playing pillowfights while the AAP hired guns play dirty with baseball bats. They spend their money on lobbyists. And the OA movement is not mobilising opinion.

[I acknowledge that there are people who are working hard to change opinion on Capitol Hill and I respect them. But it’s closed. It’s a small group of people who don’t tell the world what they are doing. Maybe this is necessary secrecy but it leaves the mass of people outside the OA movement uncoordinated. There’s Richard Poynder who has already mailed all the University Presses. But if there are other activities no one is publicising them sufficiently.]

As a result the activist response is either missing or fragmented. Some instances:

  • Where is the OA petition against HR3699? I couldn’t find one.
  • Where is the organisation of responses to Capitol Hill.? Am *I* (as a non-US citizen allowed to submit to OSTP? I asked on lists and got no reply. I tweeted (I have 1000 followers) – no reply.
  • Where is the count of people who have signed or written against HR3699?
  • Where is the communal Wiki for people to find resources for the protest?

Here’s a typical simple action – my avatar. I got the idea from Glyn Moody. YOU could do it. Don’t be afraid – it’s not illegal to protest publicly.

There are many more things that you could do, but I’ll use a separate post to give things that the Open Access movement could be doing now. All within the holy law of copyright. There’s hundreds of millions of dollars spent on OA (if you include Repositories) – there’s certainly enough resources to organize 21st century protest activities.

Late last year I gave a slogan for the OA movement: “Closed access means people die”. It’s simple. It’s a political slogan. But I was severely criticized because it hadn’t been proved in a scientific manner. (Actually there is quite enough evidence supporting it). The point is that the OA movement has to use slogans to reach out beyond its narrow boundaries. I’ve offered the apparent double negative: “Open Access saves lives”. This is the sort of message we should be using.

Because it’s obvious that the Scholarly Poor – Jennifer P, Gilles, Tim O’Reilly, Dana Boyd are doing their own activities without the coordination of the OA movement. Their anger and passion comes through and it reaches out to the Scholarly Poor in a way that academia does not.

So, OA community – if there is one – start engaging with people outside – and that’s increasingly including me.

UPDATE: Recent tweet: @petermurrayrust @PublicAccessYAY round up of OA coverage Place to vote against it #rwa

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3 Responses to Stop HR3699; The Open Access movement needs to get ACTIVE; the Scholarly Poor already do

  1. AnnMaria says:

    Another way to protest is have people start posting their research in journals that are open access on the Internet. WE’RE the ones that do the research and peer reviewing, and as Boyd said, there is this new thing now, called the Internet, that can be used to disseminate research.
    As someone who runs a small consulting company I am just LIVID that people who claim to be trying to help small business and create jobs are promoting a bill that will have a much higher impact on my costs than any tax.
    I did write about this on my blog …
    which incidentally, far more people read every month than the sum total of all of the articles I’ve published in academic journals in the past 20 years. I think as bloggers we can have a larger voice than the AAP if we pull enough of us together.

  2. Peter Suber says:

    Hi Peter. To focus on two of your many questions: You ask how people could have learned about the anti-RWA petition and how you could have learned whether the White House would accept responses to its RFI from non-US citizens. One answer to both questions is the OA Tracking Project (OATP), which I run. OATP posted news of the petition as soon as the petition launched. OATP not only posted news of the White House RFI as soon as the RFI launched, but posted the fact that it would welcome responses from outside the US. Many of us are trying hard to gather the news and share it widely. OATP accepts contributions from anyone. If you notice news not yet in the OATP feed, you can add it yourself. The OATP feed is available in HTML, RSS, Twitter, and email, and will soon move to a new (open-source) platform making it easier and more powerful for all participants. There is much more to do mobilize action than merely to share news. But OATP does a pretty good job of sharing the news for those who choose to read it.

    • pm286 says:

      Thanks Peter,
      OATP is a wonderful service and I follow it every day and many thanks.
      But it is in many ways too much (and it’s only a slice of what might be aggregated).
      We are in a struggle against RWA and similar thought and many people would benefit from having clear simple resources and instructions on a single page like:
      * These are the publishers who are (not) supporting RWA
      * Here is a template to send to your congressman (US).
      * Here is who to write to if not-US. I still don’t know whether it’s a waste of my time to write to OSTP
      * This is what your library should be doing (yes, they SHOULD be doing something). Are they? If not let them know. What’s ARL got to say? I don’t know.
      You could argue that I should chip in and do something rather than criticize. But I’m fighting several other battles and writing software to deliver Openness. If there are 1500 univ repos and they cost 2 FTEs/year that’s 3000 FTEs (your figures, approximately) . These repos are wasted if RWA passes.
      This strugle should be posted on every library splash page and every access to an online journal. (I bet the librarians have signed a contract which forbids them to do that).
      I absolutely appreciate everything that you are doing – but there are many too few.

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