"Open access" or covert propaganda?
By Alan Caruba
In his book, State of Fear, author Michael Crichton appended an opinion entitled "Why Politicized Science is Dangerous," and cautioned against, "a social program masquerading as a scientific one", citing the widespread eugenics movement in the early part of the last century.
"A second example of politicized science is quite different in character," warned Crichton. "It exemplifies the hazard of government ideology controlling the work of science, and of uncritical media promoting false concepts." Just as eugenics drew praise and support from politicians, academicians, and media in its time, so too has the manufactured crisis of global warming today. (Emphasis added)
This politicizing of science can be found in the way the United States government spends billions to fund various research programs. One example is the $40 billion spent by the U.S. Global Change Research Program since 1990. For that kind of money one would think something conclusive has been ascertained about "global warming", but if its recent report is any indication, the answer is no.
Another egregious example can be found in the Environmental Protection Agency that, over the past decade, has made grants to more than 2,200 nonprofit groups. An Associated Press article by Rita Beamish in December 2005 noted that those grants often went to groups "that lobby and sometimes sue the agency."
Multiply this by all manner of government agencies concerned with energy, education, health care and other issues, and by countless advocacy organizations and individuals receiving billions in taxpayer funding.
What emerges is research that often reflects the outcome of whatever cause or theory government bureaucrats are advancing.
Some of this research is published in peer-reviewed scientific and academic journals, and while some good science is achieved, there is no way of knowing how much government-funded research exists to advance various social and political agendas.
Amid these problems, we now have a new piece of legislation called the Federal Research Public Access Act of 2006 (S. 2695), which was introduced last May. The bill would mandate that, "federal agencies develop public access policies relating to research conducted by employees of that agency or from funds administered by that agency."
The Act would further require original research papers that, "have been accepted for publication in peer-reviewed journals and result from research supported, in whole or in part, from funding by the federal government" be available to anyone with access to the Internet.
We paid for it, so why shouldn't We the People have access to it? The problem is that We the People don't get to decide what gets researched and what doesn't. Furthermore, We the People rarely have the scientific training and knowledge to grasp the implications of such research. That's why serious journals, at considerable expense, publish peer-reviewed studies for their peers rather than Joe Sixpack.
Moreover, hardly a day goes by when a headline screams from the pages of some newspaper that some study has concluded that the Earth is doomed or everything you breathe, eat or drink will kill you. The public has been bombarded for years with bad reporting about bad scientific research, a trend "open access" would only compound.
This innocent sounding bill might better be called "The Advancement of Junk Science Act of 2006."
All the government-funded studies, whether having merit or redolent with hidden agendas, would be available to become a platform by which various social agendas would be advanced.
Nothing truly impedes anyone from access to published research studies; it's available for those who want to read it. "Open access", however, is an invitation for more clueless journalism and covert advocacy.
This bill literally forces publishers of medical, scientific and scholarly journals, which invest hundreds of millions of dollars each year in their publications, to give away their work. There is something inherently wrong in that. The Open Access bill is, in this respect, an unconstitutional "taking" of intellectual property by the federal government.
So, what starts out appearing to be a reasonable mandate based on federal funding turns out to be bad news for everyone; from those doing the research to those publishing the research. Ultimately the unskilled consumers of "open access" could also be at risk inasmuch as they are unaware of whether the material they're reading has any real merit.
Another way to further debase the process that supports questionable science is to create "alternative journals." It should come as little surprise that liberal financier George Soros, through his Open Society Institute, is a big fan of "open access" and alternative journals.
In 2002, Soros gave $3 million dollars to the Budapest Open Access Initiative, one of whose objectives is to "assist in the establishment of alternative journals that are committed to offering free and unrestricted online access to published articles." Open access to bogus research could result in the easy dissemination of the social control agenda behind global warming and other "theories."
A government that commits boneheaded mistakes every day should not be in the business of requiring what research should be openly available while it competes against private research that may well be of far superior merit.
An email, letter or call to your Senator might be a good idea before S. 2695 becomes law.
For very good reasons, medical, scientific, and scholarly journals are intended to be read by those in the communities they serve, not the general public.
This system has worked for a very long time to winnow out ultimately bad or junk science and should be left alone to continue that process.
Alan Caruba writes a weekly column, "Warning Signs", posted on the Internet site of The National Anxiety Center. His new book, "Right Answers: Separating Fact from Fantasy", has been published by Merril Press. © Alan Caruba, 2006