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The Publisher's Desk: Congressional Censorship of Science

Having access to the latest research empowers us to take charge of our health. But a new bill in Congress (HR 3699), if it passes, will limit your right to obtain scientific information that you paid for with your own tax dollars. This is a blatant act of censorship.

Here’s the background: Beginning in 2008, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) required that all federally funded research publications allow free access to articles appearing in these journals. The articles are available online at PubMedCentral (PMC), a database of journal articles at NIH’s National Library of Medicine.

This requirement was beneficial for the health-conscious consumer and healthcare practitioners—not so good for the journal publishers who feared no one would pay for the expensive subscriptions to their publications if the research was immediately accessible for free. To make the publishers happy, the government allowed them to sell journals for a year before posting their research papers on PubMed.

But now the Association of American Publishers (AAP) wants to revert to the old rules where they could sell the tax-funded research back to the taxpayers. The AAP cozied up to two members of Congress, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), and convinced them to introduce HR 3699, the Research Works Act, just before the end of 2011.

If this bill passes and you want to read the results of federally funded research—information that could make a real difference in your health or the health of your patients—you’ll have to buy access to journal articles at a cost of $15 to $30 each or more.

There are two steps you can take to stop this from happening. First, ask your Congressional representatives to vote against this bill. Second, ask them to support the Free Speech about Science Act (HR 1364), which enables the natural health products community to share with the public peer-reviewed scientific findings about natural health products. You can also visit the Alliance for Natural Health website and click on the Action Alert.