Earlier this week, the Senate passed the FY2008 Labor, HHS and Education Appropriations Bill (S.1710). Besides including $150 billion for the various departments, the bill also includes a public access mandate requiring all research funded by the National Institutes of Health be made available to other researchers and the public. The provision has been the Holy Grail of the Open Access Movement, a wide collection of scientists, researchers, universities, libraries, and organizations advocating for the funding of specific medical research. The coalition wants peer-reviewed scientific and scholarly literature to be made available online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions. This, they believe, will be a big step in removing barriers to serious research. After all, this is research done with public dollars.
Sen. James Inhofe tried his best to sabotage the open access provision in the bill with two amendments, one eliminating it entirely and the other gutting it, as Andrew Leonard reports in Salon. Why, you might ask? Leonard says it’s no coincidence that in this election cycle the senator has received over $13,000 from one of the largest for-profit publishers of scientific research in the world. The company, Reed-Elsevier, spent a total of $3,380,000 on lobbying in the United States in 2006. Inhofe was the largest recipient of Reed-Elsevier PAC money in 2006.
Despite passing the Senate in a 75 to 19, Bush has threatened to veto the bill over spending issues. And the House passed its version with 276 votes, 14 shy of a veto-proof majority. Nevertheless, Open Access advocates are encouraged to have the provision’s language pass both houses with strong majorities…Inhofe’s efforts to the contrary.
If you want to know why some lawmakers do curious things, it’s always smart to follow the money.