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Normally I try, with varying degrees of success, to keep things pretty apolitical here.  But this is something I feel very strongly about and wanted to share with you all.  Whitehouse.gov has a new-ish “petitioning” feature that allows basically anyone to start a signature-collecting campaign which, upon reaching a certain number of clicks from registered users, will require an official response on the issue in question.  That may seem like weak cheese, but it does oblige the executive branch to publicly state a position, which can focus media attention, spark debate, and create windows for real policy change.

At issue is open access to scientific information gathered using tax dollars.   Which, in the US, is about a third of it.  If you’ve ever been hot on the trail of a technical lead and run up against a robot demanding $40 to download one four-page, twenty-year-old journal article, you know what I’m talking about.  Please take a minute, if you haven’t already and are so inclined, to go register an account and sign.  They’re just shy of 23,000 clicks, as of this writing, and need 2,000 more before June 19th.

Thanks.  We now return you to your regularly scheduled program.

Require free access over the Internet to scientific journal articles arising from taxpayer-funded research

More:
Seeing the Crowdfunding Exemption Become Legal

Sean Michael Ragan

I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I write for MAKE, serve as Technical Editor for MAKE magazine, and develop original DIY content for Make: Projects.


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Comments

  1. daler says:

    Site is under maintenance?

  2. Chris says:

    Guess they don’t have to respond to the topic, if the clicks never reach target, because the site was “down for maintenance”. ha!

    1. Sean Ragan says:

      Ha! Well, there’s the rub.

  3. zof says:

    signed it but not hoping for much, it seems every petition that gets a response is just brushed off with excuses of why they can’t do anything about it, or just don’t want to. Nothing like creating a system for people to voice and grab your attention just to show them how little you actually care about their opinions.

    1. Sean Ragan says:

      Believe me, I understand that sense of futility in the face of federal policy and politics. I struggle against it constantly. Thanks for taking the time.

    2. Alan Dove says:

      In this case, though, the executive branch is already moving in the right direction, and the petition could help accelerate that trend and also pressure Congress to get off its obstructionist butt for a change. The NIH, for example, has already made some efforts to pry the journal industry’s death-grip on public research loose. They’re opposed by a phalanx of well-funded lobbyists.

  4. We have had this in the UK for several years, and so far they seem to have ignored just about every petition. But then they ignored us about the war in Iraq and not wanting to join the European Union.

    The other issue is that several people may raise petitions on the same subject which means addedd together there is enough votes, but individually they don’t have enough to trigger a debate.

  5. Terry says:

    Sure, just what we need. Require our government to make this available to anyone on the internet. I am sure the scientists working for Dictator Ahmanutjob will appreciate this.

    1. Sean Ragan says:

      Ha, ROFL, good one!

      On the off chance you are actually serious: kindly note that any organization that can afford to build and operate gas centrifuges can afford to pay $40 an article for our science, which is already immediately available online to anyone willing to shell out the ridiculous prices the publishing firms are charging for it. Low-income folks who want to read about new treatments for their cancers probably can’t, however.

    2. ka1axy says:

      Terry, the Federal Government already has a mechanism to embargo journal articles relating to technologies which could have military uses. Or don’t you remember the kerfuffle about the avian flu articles last year?

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