Honk if you use scientific literature

Do you use scientific papers in your classroom?  Speak up or open access may go away. 

Three seemly unrelated items related to the use of primary literature appeared in my Twitter feed and email these past few days.

  • The first item was a professional development opportunity in Geneva, NY, on a teaching strategy involving primary literature (C.R.E.A.T.E.).  The application deadline is January 15th.   C.R.E.A.T.E. June workshops

The C.R.E.A.T.E. strategy includes using primary literature in teaching undergraduates, a practice that's long been employed by Bio-Link instructors.  

  • The second was a paper on the contamination of commericial RT-PCR reagents with Murine Leukemia virus and mouse DNA. 

Contamination of commericial RT-PCR reagents with mouse DNA and Murine Leukemia virus

  • The third is the Research Works Act, a bill in the House of Representatives designed to roll back access to NIH sponsored research.  

The common thread is that they all involve access to the scientific literature.  The workshop depends on it.  I wouldn't have been able to read the paper without it and the last item is about a bill to take it away.  

In other words, if you've been using PubMed or having your students read papers, watch out.  If this bill passes, it's going to be a lot harder to use scientific papers in your classroom.   

The rationale behind the Research Works Act is that it supposedly costs publishers a great deal to publish scientific papers and they should be able to recoup the costs by charging large fees.  If you have ever tried to purchase access to a scientific publication, you know the fees typically run about $30 an article.  This is far too high a price for most of us and would make it prohibitively expensive us to continue having students read scientific literature in our courses.  Some of you may have access to scientific journals through library subscriptions, but neither of the community colleges where I teach seem to have this luxury.

Not only would the Research Works Act take away the access that we have to NIH funded research now, it would prohibit any similar measures requiring access to peer-reviewed publications from being implemented in the future.

If this issue is important to you, it would be good to speak out and write your congress person.


More background on the bill can be found here:

Janet Stemwedel  The Research Works Act: asking the public to pay twice for scientific knowledge.

Sandra Porter  Raising the barriers:  restricting access to scientific literature will hurt STEM education

John Dupuis Around the web:  Some posts on the Research Works Act


Hi all, I used some of

Hi all,

I used some of Sandy's language and wrote a letter to my legislators. I thought others might want to use the template to email legislators from their state.  You can find it here.  On a personal note, I find it difficult to comprehend that anyone thinks this is a good idea, particularly given the more important issues that we face as a country.  To each his own, once again.... Cheers!




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