Dear Congressman Schiff,
I note that you are on the House Judiciary Committee, which is currently considering H.R. 801, sponsored by John Conyers (D, MI), and entitled the Fair Copyright in Research Works Act. I also notice, courtesy of MAPLight.org, that you received $6,000 from the publishing industry in the most recent election cycle, which is actually more than the average received by those representatives who co-sponsored the bill.
This bill was submittted, verbatim, in the 110th congress, and roundly defeated. It should be similarly voted down this time around. It would prohibit the federal government from attaching open access requirements to the scientific papers which result from publicly funded research, as is currently the case with the NIH, via the PubMed Central database. Publicly funded research is an investment in the public good. To reap the greatest reward for the public, that research needs to be publicly accessible. The scientific publishing industry today is largely parasitic, charging authors to publish, requiring volunteers to review, and charging institutions for access to, scientific papers, which could be published at low cost, peer reviewed, and made universally available via the Internet, through professional societies, and novel publishing organizations like the Public Library of Science. Often in public universities and research labs, the public is paying three times: for the research to be done, for the salaries of those scientists who perform the reviews, and for the institutional subscriptions to the journals which report the research. This is absurd. We should be moving aggressively in the direction of open access for all to publicly funded research, not regressing into a publishing model that may have made sense in the 19th century, but no longer serves the needs of the scientific community, or the public.
I hope you will join me in aggressively opposing H.R. 801, and urge your fellow representatives on the Judiciary Committee to do the same, irrespective of the fact that the publishing industry has contributed significantly to your campaign funds. I would also draw your attention to the Change Congress donors strike. I have pledged not to support any federal candidate who does not publicly commit to citizen funded elections, and the removal of special interests from the campaign process. Amongst my currently elected representatives, only Senator Barbara Boxer has made this pledge. I have not previously contributed to your campaigns, but if you are willing to support Change Congress’ citizen funded elections platform, I will donate $50 to your campaign fund.
I would also like to encourage you to interact regularly with your constituents via the real-time microblogging service Twitter. See TweetCongress for more information.
Zane A. Selvans