FIRST Act isn’t the first to use doublespeak against the advancement of science

The Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science and Technology (FIRST) Act (link) is doublespeak for “we’re actually going to limit Open Access.”

The FIRST Act is yet another bill that is winding its way through the US Congress that despite making claims FOR science will actually reduce the availability of Open Access. Luckily the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) has clarified the damage that this bill would actually do to scientific advancement within the U.S. PLOS has done another writeup of the severe consequences this bill would bring. 

In the past similar bills such as the RWA ”Research Works Act” backed by the Association of American Publishers and many paywall publishers have used this doublespeak. The Clearinghouse for the Open Research of the United States (CHORUS), a publisher backed proposal,  is another initiative filled with doublespeak, with the real aim to control access - not open it up. And more recently the “Access to Research" initiative from publishers does the opposite of what its title proclaims. It limits access to research in the digital age by adding a physical barrier and forcing you to travel hundreds of miles to a participating library instead of providing access in the convenience of your lab or home. 

What really fascinates me, however, is the continued use of marketing doublespeak in these legacy publisher proposals to manufacture consent and distort the facts for financial gain. That they are pronounced with a straight face each time makes me just a little sick inside that people like this actually exist. The opposite of heroes, value creators, and leaders. If you haven’t noticed, these tactics grind my gears to the point of evoking a visceral emotional response.

Now I’ve looked to see who outside Congress is backing the FIRST Act by way of either public support or Congressional campaign donations and have yet to find a connection to the usual suspect publishers or associations. Please leave a comment if you do find a connection. 


As Björn Brembs points out, a number of paywall journals and publishers have donated to the Congressmen responsible for bringing the FIRST Act to the House of Reps. This is more than a smoking gun leading back to Elsevier, and a few other large publishers known for backing previous anti-OA bills.