Today, we sit down with Philip Cohen (University of Maryland) to discuss the American Sociological Association’s opposition to a Trump Administration proposal to mandate the immediate public release of federally-funded research.
The Trump Administration recently proposed a regulation that would require that publicly-funded research be distributed openly upon publication. This policy drew immediate opposition from the publishing industry, who makes money by selling licenses to view this research within the first 12 months of publication.
The American Sociological Association co-signed a public letter opposing the regulation, arguing:
The current 12-month embargo period provides science and engineering society publishers the financial stability that enables us to support peer review that ensures the quality and integrity of the research enterprise. Further, it enables us to drive advancement in our respective scientific fields through our meetings, programs and outreach…
…To take action to shorten the 12-month embargo would undermine cooperative efforts to address these bigger, higher priorities, and risks the continued international leadership for the U.S. scientific enterprise.
Some sociologists, including members of the ASA Publications Committee.
I’m a member of the Publications Committee, and no one asked me, obviously. Because rushing out a statement on a hypothetical new policy is too important to the scientific enterprise to allow for deliberation by the actual elected membership. You know, sociologists.— Philip N Cohen (@familyunequal) December 19, 2019
Committee member and University of Maryland sociologist Philip Cohen assembled a petition of sociologists opposing the ASA’s decision to immediately oppose this regulation proposal.
Good #OAintheUSA news. ASA Committee on Publications passed this today: “The ASA Committee on Publications expresses our opposition to the decision by the ASA to sign the December 18, 2019 letter.” Thanks to 220+ people who signed the letter. Background: https://t.co/Uz2awc4BX4.— Philip N Cohen (@familyunequal) January 23, 2020
In this episode, we invited Philip Cohen to discuss the ASA’s position.
Statement from ASA
We reached out to the ASA Communications Office for comment. They responded:
The letter ASA signed, along with more than 50 other learned societies with similar missions related to advancing science and scientific scholarship, expressed concern about an Executive Order rumored to be coming out with almost no notice or consultation with the scientific community. The letter asked President Trump to slow down and “engage with a broad array of stakeholders to collaboratively ensure openness and reliability in research and development.” In signing the letter, our primary goal was to encourage discussion by the Administration with the scientific community before moving forward precipitously and unilaterally with policy changes that will affect scientific publishing. Given (as you probably know) that the Trump administration has not been particularly friendly to scientific advancement (see https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/28/climate/trump-administration-war-on-science.html for some examples), an unexpected and hurried executive order related to science policy was met with skepticism.
Given that we still do not have full information about the content of the possible Executive Order, we are focused on ensuring consultation as it is developed so we have no additional comment now.
I should also mention that the decision to sign the letter was made following ASA’s policy for responding to time-sensitive public issues—with a vote of the President, President-elect, Past President, and Secretary. Needless to say, these elected leaders take this responsibility very seriously and do their best to reflect the interests of the sociologists who are our members.