A Message for Martin Frank

In case you don’t know (and, likely, you don’t), Martin Frank is with the non-profit American Physiological Society and he raised my ire this morning. Here’s why:

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) uses taxpayer money (read: yours and mine) to fund as many as 60,000 scientific studies every year. In the State of the Union address last night, President Bush praised Congress for doubling the NIH budget, so we can assume this number will only grow.

At the end of each study, the scientists publish their findings. Until now, it could cost $20 and more to get your hands on a copy. Sharon Terry, who runs a patient advocacy group called The Genetic Alliance, says she has spoken with parents who have used information from these studies to make a difference in the care of their children, many of whom have devastating diseases. Sadly, she says, without access some parents have watched doctors make grave mistakes in the treatment of their kids.

The NIH, in an attempt to make this information more accessible (and in a nod to the current state of technology), will be asking its scientists to make their findings available freely available to anyone by uploading them into an Internet archive. Good news, right?

Well, there are some companies out there that make a profit from publishing these papers, and they don’t like it at all. Some of them are non-profit organizations who use the revenue to fund really important things, like meetings and copy paper.

So, Martin Frank. Martin is with a non-profit group called the American Physiological Society. This group sells research papers and Martin doesn’t really want you to have access to the results of scientific studies that you paid for.

Martin says, “I think the government is trying to extend its reach beyond where it should be.”

My message to Martin?

Screw you, buddy.


  1. This seems ludicrous, especially considering the policy has already been watered-down to begin with. The initial recommendation was for “immediate public release of papers for which the agency pays publication costs, as well as requiring that papers on other NIH-sponsored research be released 6 months after publication.” It is expected that the final policy will extend the time frame to 12 months.When/if the greater good of the public becomes the central rallying point of this issue, rather than the greater good of people like Martin Frank, perhaps we can get to a system of true open access. BTW – I love the way they spin it to make it sound as if they’re protecting the rights of the author first and their pocketbooks as an afterthought. Meanwhile, the people suffer…

  2. Here, here – thanks for posting that, I had no idea!!!!

  3. I totally agree with you. Also, unless the research involves classified information research done with public funds (taxpayers $$$) it is suppose to be available to the public. This sounds like one of those “write to your congress-person and senator” efforts!Good post – thanks for the headsup!http://wheresyourbrain.blogspot.com/

  4. Thank you for that terrific post illuminating the world of carpetbagger peddlers of public information. Kudos

  5. Well it sounds like a fair compromise was reached. Personally, I agree with you that it should all be made available, because it is funded by the American people and we are the folks that own it. And because NIH positions are so prestigious that it is hard to imagine this rule would in any way diminish the incentive for top scientists to work at NIH.But there is another side to this. Which is that the private periodicals are part of a vibrant worldwide research community, and you don’t really want to drive them out of business. One of the ways that federally subsidized research maximizes its benefit is by encouraging private players to be part of the process. It could be argued that in the long run, a vibrant and diverse research community is going to save and improve more lives, even though an individual may suffer [even horribly] from time to time. It is not very emotionally satisfying, but it really may be more important in the long run to facilitate communications among scientists of technical information, than to facilitate the research of individual patients. If you make it impossible for top scientists to publish in the most prestigious journals because they must first disclose their findings to the general public, top scientists may well ultimately leave NIH for private universities with more reasonable rules. And the idea that meetings are frivolous exercises for researchers is really a bit off base. The last thing you want to do is make it harder for researchers to communicate with each other. If you really care about finding cures to terrible diseases, that is.You have a really thoughtful and thought provoking site!

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