By Rock Health Mentor John Wilbanks
After years of fighting in the US Government trenches for open access to scholarly research, and after winning the battle to implement a public access policy at NIH, it has become clear that being on the right side of the issue is necessary but not sufficient. We’ve had the meetings, done the hearings, replied to the requests for information.
But we’re opposed in our work by a small set of publishers who profit enormously from the existing system. They can – and do – outspend those of us who have chosen to make a huge part of our daily work the expansion of access to knowledge. They can even get legislation introduced to prohibit public access policies and restrict scientific data sharing.
This puts the idea of access at a disadvantage. We know there is a serious debate about the extension of public access to taxpayer funded research going on right now in the White House, but we also know that we need more than our current approaches to get that extension made into federal policy.
The best approach that we have not yet tried is to make a broad public appeal for support, straight to the people. The Obama Administration has created a web platform to petition the White House directly called We The People. Any petition receiving more than 25,000 digital signatures is placed on the desk of the President’s Chief of Staff and must be integrated into policy and political discussions. But there’s a catch - a petition only has 30 days to gather the required number of signatures to qualify.
We can get 25,000 signatures. And if we not only get 25,000, but an order of magnitude more, we can change the debate happening right now.
On May 20, we published our petition and the 30 day cycle began. What we’re asking you to do is to sign the petition yourself, and then leverage your personal and professional networks to get the word out.
You can do this in any way that makes you feel comfortable. A blog post, an email to constituencies, a tweet, a facebook share, you name it - something that tells thousands of people “I support this petition, I’m signing this petition, and I thought you should know about it too.”
Because this isn’t just slacktivism with a “like” or a retweet – people need to go to the White House website, enter their name and email address, and hit the button.
Qualifed signers must be 13 years old or more, and have a valid email address. That’s all.
The goal is not just to get 25,000, but to blow it out of the water. To make a dense thud when the petition lands on the desk of the chief of staff. To show the White House that this issue matters to people, not just a few publishers.
If we can all come together to get the word out at once, and stay behind it for 30 days, we have a real chance to get access to taxpayer funded research across the entire government, and send a signal that the people have a voice in this debate, not just publishers and activists.
To sign the petition, click here.