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President Obama: Make Publicly Funded Research Free, Available

Christopher A. Hesh
University of Maryland School of Medicine c/o 2015
Co-President of UMD AMSA

Barriers to healthcare access manifest in many forms and AMSA stands at the forefront of the fight to tear down these barriers in the effort to establish healthcare as a human right. Integral to this fight for access is the engine that drives discovery of healthcare delivery methods and new treatment programs: taxpayer-funded research.

The American public spends $60 billion each year on non-defense research through government programs like the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Department of Energy (DOE). [1] Accessing this research can cost anywhere from $15 to $32 for a single article to multi-thousand dollar subscription fees for a single journal, forcing taxpayers to pay twice: once to fund the research and again to see the results. [2] This necessity of paying multiple times for access to life-saving research furthermore serves as a direct barrier to healthcare access for patients, who rely on their physicians to provide them with timely treatment programs informed by federally-funded research.

We know from the success of the NIH Public Access Policy, which requires all NIH-funded research to be open-access 12 months after publication, that the scientific community is a powerful instrument of change. Indeed, the Public Access Policy has proven an invaluable step in the fight toward complete open access. The NIH, however, is not the only federal agency responsible for medical research grants. Furthermore, recently introduced bills such as the Research Works Act (H.R. 3699) have targeted open-access in an attempt to not only roll back the NIH’s public access policy, but completely prohibit open-access mandates for federally funded research altogether. The Research Works Act was eventually pulled by its legislative sponsors in response to overwhelming opposition by patients, students and taxpayers, but the fight for open access is not over.

AMSA believes the continued attack on open-access research equates to an attack on healthcare access. In response, we’re joining a coalition of individuals and organizations including the Public Library of Science and Wikimedia Foundation, along with over 20,000 current signatories, in supporting a ‘We The People’ petition urging President Obama sign a directive to require free, timely access over the internet to journal articles arising from taxpayer-funded research. Help us reach this goal by signing the petition, and spread the word so that we can reach our target of 25,000 signatures by June 19th.

Sign the petition!

[1] Bennof, Richard J. Proposed Federal R&D Funding for FY 2011 Dips to $143 Billion, with Cuts in National Defense R&D. InfoBrief. Washington, DC: National Science Foundation, September 2010. Available at: http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/infbrief/nsf10327/nsf10327.pdf

[2] Examples of single article purchase prices come from the New England Journal of Medicine ($15 at http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1111961) and from The Lancet ($31.50 at http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2811%2961625-5/fulltext).

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