Senator John Warner
Joint Committee on Printing
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Chairman Warner:
The American Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC) welcomes the opportunity to comment on your draft legislation, the "Government Printing Office Act of 1997." If enacted, this bill would modify Title 44 of the US Code to ensure that information collected, analyzed and assembled by the federal government remains in the public domain. Although AACC supports the intent of your legislation—to promote dissemination of the government’s findings to the public—we are concerned about the potential impact of this bill on the free exchange of scientific information.
Section 104 of the bill states that a government employee would be subject to a $5,000 fine if he or she wrote an article for private publication based on his or her government research findings. A second infraction would result in termination. The bill further states that such information must always remain in the public domain (i.e. cannot be copyrighted) and should be accessible through the Government Printing Office. Although this language seems straightforward, it could, in fact, have serious ramifications on the dissemination and review of scientific data.
One of the key factors to scientific advancement is the free exchange and review of ideas. This legislation would restrict that practice. Under this proposal, government scientists (and possibly individuals receiving federal grants), would be prohibited from publishing their research findings in private publications, such as peer-reviewed scientific journals. Instead, such data would be available only through the GPO, which could delay the publication of such materials, as well as diminish the credibility of the data, since it would not be subjected to peer-review.
In addition, this legislation could reduce access to such findings. Many journals might forego publishing research findings if they cannot copyright the articles. Also, most scientists get their information on recent advancements from these journals, such as the New England Journal of Medicine, Journal of the American Medical Association and Clinical Chemistry, not from the GPO. Therefore, it’s important that government scientists continue to publish their findings in these peer-reviewed journals, where their research can be widely disseminated and contribute to the advancement of scientific knowledge. AACC urges you to modify the legislation to ensure that government employees can continue to publish, unobstructed in peer-reviewed scientific journals.
By way of background, AACC is the principal association of clinical chemists--professional laboratory scientists--including MDs, PhDs and medical technologists. Clinical chemists develop and use chemical concepts, procedures, techniques and instrumentation in health-related investigations. The AACC represents clinical chemists working in hospitals, independent laboratories and industries nationwide. The AACC's objectives are to further the public interest and educational activities and help maintain high professional standards.
If we may be of any assistance, or if you have any questions about our comments, please call me at (717) 531-8316 or Vince Stine, Manager, Government Affairs at (202) 835-8721.
Laurence M. Demers, PhD, DABCC