Wednesday, December 8, 2004

Data sharing and medical publications

Nice article in today's Wall Street Journal on a plan by technical publishers to provide free, but limited, access to some of their copyrighted publications in order to pre-empt a NIH proposal (to be announced in a few weeks) to permit open access to publications that resulted from federally funded research.

"A consortium of leading technical publishers is expected to announce today a plan to allow three patient-advocacy groups to select hundreds of timely journal articles, and to make the content available through the groups' Internet sites. The organizations are the American Cancer Society, American Diabetes Association, and American Heart Association.

"The publishers include the Elsevier unit of Reed Elsevier PLC, John Wiley & Sons, Blackwell Publishing, and others. The consortium, called patientINFORM is expected to launch the project in the spring.

"Under the plan, the three patient-advocacy groups would have a free hand in selecting articles, making original text available to the public, along with interpretative text supplied by experts at the heart, diabetes and cancer associations. The groups will keep adding fresh content from the publishers over time. The publishers, who aren't charging the associations, say they consider this a pilot project that could be expanded to other organizations. "

The article also makes clear that  the "industry plan... would make only a small portion of taxpayer-funded biomedical research available to the public, which is at the crux of the dissemination proposal put forward by the National Institutes of Health in September."

This may not seem directly related to antitrust, but the big issue is competition in the publishing industry and the interplay between intellectual property law and competition policy.

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