US Privatisation Plan For Open-Access Journal Challenged 16/11/2005 by Steve Gibb for Intellectual Property Watch Leave a Comment Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)By Steve Gibb for Intellectual Property Watch Washington, DC–A US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) plan to privatise a prestigious open-access environmental science journal is drawing criticism from Democrats in the US Congress and activists who say public funding provides key information in environmental debates. But some environmental science experts say the journal is edited from a left-leaning political perspective and should not be funded by the US government. DHHS National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) proposed a privatisation plan for its journal Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP) on 19 September as part of a budgetary review of NIEHS activities. But the move immediately sparked controversy among leading environmental groups who rely on EHP’s open access to scientific evidence in disputes with the chemical industry over the risks posed by environmental contaminants. The controversy prompted Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio and 12 other House Democrats to write to DHHS urging NIEHS not to privatise the journal because of the value of the journal’s public education and outreach benefits both domestically and abroad. The 9 November congressional letter stresses the link between public funding and the benefits of open access. “Its public funding source allows it to be an open access journal … that is essential because the vast majority of published research is available only through increasingly costly journal subscriptions, institutional licence fees, or per-article purchases. This closed system leaves the American public . . . under-informed about important, timely research results they helped finance.” NIEHS officials declined to comment, but said when the proposal was published that no official decisions regarding the future of EHP will be made in 2005. However, the proposal is drawing praise from some environmental science experts who say EHP’s news articles and editorial focus lean leftward and that the journal should be privatised. For example, EHP published articles backing strict children’s cancer controls in US Environmental Protection Agency toxics policies. One science policy expert, who requested anonymity, says EHP is a “point of view” journal. But an academic critic of privatisation disagrees, saying “Documenting how chemicals have adverse health effects is not subjective.” Environmental groups like the US-based Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense and over 38 other groups criticized the privatisation plan, part of over 330 public comments filed on the issue late last month. The congressional letter also praises the journal’s prestige, saying it enhances the reputation of its publisher, NIEHS. “EHP ranks second among one hundred-thirty-two environmental science journals . . . It is uniquely able to carry out public education efforts and grant free access to some of the most important science of our time, which the private publishing sector would be unlikely to support,” according to the congressmen. The letter also notes that the publication’s open access makes it available globally in ways unlikely to be sustained by the private sector, including to developing countries. “Because EHP is publicly funded, important public health functions are performed that the private sector would be unlikely to support. The NIEHS provides free monthly copies to those in the developing world, where environmental health problems are, in many cases, the most severe. . . These programs have high public health value and would be at risk if EHP were privatised.” Financial Viability of Open Access Publications Meanwhile, a new study funded by a scientific society and several publishers of technical journals raises questions about the financial viability of open access publications. The study, “The Facts About Open Access,” is a survey of publications who make some or all content freely available or delay full and free access to all research and news articles. The study, published by American Association for the Advancement of Science, concludes that about 40 percent of the surveyed journals have yet to be self-supporting and 24 percent were breaking even. The move by DHHS cuts against the grain of a broader government effort geared towards making taxpayer funded biomedical research more freely available to the public. DHHS officials estimated a year ago that it would cost $2.5 million to make all studies funded by the National Institutes of Health freely available online. Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Related "US Privatisation Plan For Open-Access Journal Challenged" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.