May 18, 1997 - Government Printing Office Proposal

The Honorable John Warner
Joint Committee on Printing
818 Senate Hart Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20210-6650

On behalf of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM), which represents over 42,000 scientists, we are writing to express great concern over proposed legislation to revise and amend Title 44 of the U.S. Code, which deals with the printing of government documents. As written, this legislation would prohibit scientists who are federal employees from submitting their research findings for publication in scientific journals. Furthermore, we are fearful that the bill may expand to prohibit scientists receiving federal grants from publishing the results of their research.

The proposed legislation threatens the strength and leadership of the scientific research enterprise in the United States. Additionally, it will severely curb the free and open dissemination of scientific data and results, critical to a sound science policy based on peer review. If scientists supported by the federal government are prohibited from publishing their work in scientific journals, the government's ability to provide timely, and accurate information to the public about research results and the prevention and treatment of disease will be severely impaired. Moreover, the scientific peer review process, which relies on scientific journals to publish the results of scientific research, will be damaged and become unreliable.

Scientists depend on their ability to publish in scientific journals to test the validity of their findings. Without the ability to publish their research, scientists will be unable to have their work reviewed by their peers in a timely manner. Science, like our judicial system, is based in part on precedence. Scientists, like lawyers and judges, review the findings of their peers and base future work on those findings. This proposed legislation would interfere with the orderly dissemination of research results, severely curtailing the scientific peer review process, and weakening the U.S. scientific community's ability to communicate freely.

The proposed legislation would also have a dramatic impact on the federal government's ability to recruit and employ experienced scientists who are leaders in their field. Section 102 (2) states that it is the intent of Congress that federal research data be available to anyone without restriction. This provision removes any incentives a scientist might have to work for the federal government. Not only is a scientist unable to publish his or her work, but he or she must provide research data and/or findings to any member of the public without restriction, under this proposal. The recipient of such information may repackage it and sell it in a copyrighted format, without any credit to the scientist who produced the information in the first place.

Without revisions to provide protection of research data and the ability of scientists to publish their work in scientific journals, the ASM, on behalf of its more than 42,000 members, urges you to stop this proposed legislation from further consideration. As a strong supporter of U.S. research and development interests, we know that you will appreciate our concerns.