SOPA? What’s the big deal?

On Wednesday, January 18, 2012, many popular websites went dark in a virtual protest against the Research Works Act. Websites who participated in the blackout included Google, Wikipedia, Mozilla, WordPress, MoveOn, Twitpic and more.

The Research Works Act was introduced in Congress early this month and seeks to deny Americans free access to research funded by taxpayer money.  The law, if passed would prohibit federal agencies from conditioning their grants to require that articles reporting on publicly funded research be made accessible to the public.

How would this affect higher education? Anyone who used publicly funded grants to do research and studies are required to make their findings freely available 12 months after they are published. Publishers would like to have this mandate removed so that they do not ever have to make the information free.  Rather, anyone who needs the research must continue to pay for it.

Many colleges and universities are already in economic crisis and could not afford to pay for access to this research. This has many in the academic community in an uproar, many of which are sending out calls to action urging stakeholders (parents, students, teachers, doctors, and researchers) to contact Representative Maloney and ask her to withdraw her sponsorship of the bill.

More information about the controversy can be read at:
Discover magazine
Blogger Kristina Chew
Scientific American
UC Biologist Michael Eisen