Top medical and scientific societies commit to providing free access to research


The Washington DC Principles for Free Access to Science increases access to new research findings, while maintaining high standards for responsible scientific publishing

(March 16, 2004) Washington, DC Representatives from the nation's leading not-for-profit medical/scientific societies and publishers have announced their commitment to providing free access and wide dissemination of published research findings. Their commitment was conveyed today by the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Cancer Society, the American Diabetes Association and others, during a news conference in Washington at which they released Washington DC Principles for Free Access to Science statement representing 48 not-for-profit publishers, over 600,000 scientists and clinicians, and more than 380 journals.

The DC Principles outlines the commitment of not-for-profit publishers to work in partnership with scholarly communities such as libraries to "ensure that these communities are sustained, science is advanced, research meets the highest standards and patient care is enhanced with accurate and timely information." The DC Principles provide what has been called the needed "middle ground" in the increasingly heated debate between those who advocate immediate unfettered online access to medical and scientific research findings and advocates of the current journal publishing system. The document was drafted in response to recent claims that these publishers' practices hinder the public's ability to access published scientific research.

The DC Principles

The Washington DC Principles for Free Access to Science outlines several practices that the 48 organizations that created and signed the document are committed to carrying out. These practices include:

  • A commitment to maintaining and enhancing the independence, rigor, trust and visibility that have helped to establish scholarly journals as reliable filters of information that is generated by clinical and laboratory research and provide a filter for dissemination of health care policy.

  • Support of several forms of free access, including the availability of:

      1. important articles from scientific or medical journals,
      2. journal content for scientists working in many low-income nations,
      3. the full text of journals worldwide immediately or within months of publication,
      4. content for indexing by major search engines so readers worldwide can locate information.

  • Continued development of long-term preservation solutions for online journals to ensure the ongoing availability of the scientific literature.

  • Dedication to work with authors, peer-reviewers, and editors for the development of robust online and electronic tools to improve efficiency of their important intellectual endeavors.

  • The reinvestment of revenue from journals in direct support of science worldwide, including scholarships, scientific meetings, grants, educational outreach, advocacy for research funding, the free dissemination of information to the public and improvements in scientific publishing.

The organizations also believe that publication fees should not be borne solely by researchers and their funding institutions because the ability to publish in scientific journals should be available equally to all scientists worldwide, no matter what their economic circumstances.

Finally, the creators of the DC Principles note that the co-existence of many different publishing models is part of a free society. "We will continue to work closely with our colleagues," the organizations write, "to set high standards for the scholarly publishing enterprise."

"Free Access" Publishers Are Unique

Scientific societies have been publishing scholarly journals for more than 100 years and have created a large and diverse array of publications. For more than a century these groups have made important scientific and medical information available to the public at little or no cost through their journals. Their business models, incorporating multiple sources of funding, have supported a global standard for high quality peer review by specialist communities in particular areas of knowledge. In this way the public is assured that the research findings being published have been screened for accuracy, originality and excellence.

The funds these organizations derive from their publishing activities are used to fulfill their missions, including underwriting the cost of programs aimed at recruiting and educating the next generation of physicians and scientists as well as helping to fund their research. Such activities are essential for the future of science.

Panelists Speaking In Support of Free Access

The DC Principles' free access model was presented during a news briefing at 10:00 AM on Tuesday, March 16, 2004 at the National Press Club (Lisagor Room), Washington, DC. A panel of five offered an in-depth discussion of the issue. Speaking on behalf of free access were:

  • Robert D. Wells, Ph.D., President of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB). Dr. Wells is also the former associate editor of the Journal of Biological Chemistry and currently the Director of the Center for Genome Research at the Institute of Biosciences and Technology, Texas A&M University, Houston, TX.

  • John Iglehart, Founding Editor, Health Affairs, Project HOPE. Health Affairs is a peer-reviewed, multidisciplinary journal and the largest circulation health policy periodical published in the United States.

  • Alice Avila-Villalobos, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Environmental Medicine, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Rochester, NY. Dr. Avila-Villalobos is a junior scientist who has been mentored by outreach and education programs underwritten by scholarly societies.

  • Karin Wittenborg, MLS, is the University Librarian at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA. She currently serves on the Advisory Council for Stanford's Academic Computing and Libraries, Brown University's Committee on Information Resources, and on the Executive Committee of the Digital Library Federation.

  • William Rosner, MD, is Professor of Medicine and Associate Dean, College of Physician and Surgeons, Columbia University, and Director, Institute of Health Sciences, St. Luke's-Roosevelt University, Hospital Center, New York, New York. Dr. Rosner is also Chair of the Publications Committee for the Endocrine Society and a scientific/physician user of the literature. His major area of clinical interest is androgenic disorders in women.

  • Martin Frank, Ph.D., spokesperson for the DC Principles and Executive Director of the American Physiological Society (APS). APS is one of the oldest biomedical sciences research societies in America. The not-for-profit association has published the American Journal of Physiology since 1898 and presently publishes 13 other journals.

48 Scientific and Medical Organizations Support Free Access

Forty-eight members of the not-for-profit publishing community support the DC Principles for Free Access to Science. They are:

American Academy of Pediatrics
American Association for Cancer Research
American Association for Clinical Chemistry
American Cancer Society
American College of Chest Physicians
American College of Nutrition
American College of Physicians
American Dairy Science Association
American Diabetes Association
American Physiological Society
American Psychiatric Publishing
American Roentgen Ray Society
American Society of Animal Science
American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
American Society for Clinical Investigation
American Society for Clinical Nutrition
American Society for Investigative Pathology
American Society for Microbiology
American Society for Nutritional Sciences
American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics
American Society of Clinical Oncology
American Society of Hematology
American Society of Nephrology
American Society of Plant Biologists
Association for Molecular Pathology
Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology
Association of Biomolecular Resource Facilities
Biophysical Society
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press
Company of Biologists, Limited
European Molecular Biology Organisation
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology
Genetics Society of America
Histochemical Society
Project HOPE
Protein Society
Radiological Society of North America
Royal College of Psychiatrists
Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine
Society for Leukocyte Biology
Society for the Study of Reproduction
Society of National Association Publications
Society of Nuclear Medicine
Society of Surgical Oncology
The Botanical Society of America
The Endocrine Society
The Physiological Society
The Rockefeller University Press.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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