The Association of American University Presses this week said it does not support the Research Works Act, a blow to the proposed legislation that would have barred the federal government from mandating public access to taxpayer-funded research. It also however, voiced opposition to a competing bill, the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA), which would mandate public access. “AAUP supports the goal of providing free public access to the results of publicly funded research,” a statement issued this week reads. “We think the blanket prohibition sought by RWA goes too far. At the same time we also think the one-size-fits-all solution proposed in FRPAA is unworkable.”

The lack of support for the RWA represents something of a turnaround on the issue for AAUP. In 2008, AAUP leaders faced a backlash from some of its members for its stated support of The Fair Copyright in Research Works Act, a bill which also sought to overturn the mandate on public access to NIH funded research, and ban future mandates.

While coming out against the RWA, AAUP criticized FRPAA as a “one-size-fits-all” solution to a complex problem. “[FRPAA] mistakenly assumes that no more than 6 months will be required for publishers to recover the investment they have made in preparing research works for publication, in all fields and across all disciplines,” the statement notes. “Setting an appropriate and sustainable public access policy is a complex task that requires careful thought about a range of issues—not just access, but also interoperability and long-term preservation—involving a broad spectrum of stakeholders—researchers, universities, libraries, both nonprofit and commercial publishers, and the general public.”

Instead, the AAUP expressed support for continuing conversation on the issue, as set out in Section 103 of the America COMPETES (Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science) Reauthorization Act of 2010. That section directs the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to "coordinate Federal science agency research and policies related to the dissemination and long-term stewardship of the results of unclassified research, including digital data and peer-reviewed scholarly publications, supported wholly, or in part, by funding from the Federal science agencies.”

The “consultative process” outlined in Section 103, is already underway, and “this process should be allowed to continue,” AAUP officials state, “and not be short-circuited by legislation like RWA or FRPAA.”