Due to the lapse in government funding, the information on this web site may not be up to date, transactions submitted via the web site may not be processed, and the agency may not be able to respond to inquiries until appropriations are enacted.
Updates regarding government operating status and resumption of normal operations can be found at http://www.usa.gov.
Is what greets you if you visit PubMed Central (As of 21:30 UK time 1/10/2013).
If you go to www.data.gov you will be redirected to notice.usa.gov and you will be greeted by this notice:
Due to the lapse in federal government funding, this website is not available.
We sincerely regret this inconvenience.
For information about available government services, visit USA.gov.
On The Scholarly Kitchen, you will find writing that subjects PubMed Central to some pretty hard scrutiny. But regardless of that fact, today is really a rather depressing day. Because today is the day that an uncomfortable truth about government funding of direct access to research has been revealed. If the government no longer wishes to fund it, then it can disappear very quickly indeed. The servers go down on PubMed Central and it’s an open question as to whether there is anybody around to reboot them. Data.gov seems to have been completely taken down proactively. Think about that.
And although this is the biggest example out there right now, the reality is, that there are sites out there right now that are effectively ghosts, because the funding stream ended – just waiting for somebody to get around to turning off the servers that power them. Information just waiting to be lost. In a previous existence, I was party to more than one conversation that went something like this;
“Hi there, you are a great publisher that has a good reputation in [insert area]. We’ve got this site. It’s full of great content. There’s an obvious synergy between what you and what we’ve been doing. Thing is, our money has run out. Is there any chance you would be willing to support this?”
Those are hard conversations.
There’s all sorts of stuff being written about why this has happened. And there’s plenty of places you can go to enter the hurly-burly of that debate if you so wish. But not here. What matters here, is that it has happened. Over on Twitter as I write this, there’s a line of thought about the need for a European PubMed Central. You can see the thinking, one place goes down, so some sort of mirror would be good. Except that of course that would be funded by some sort of EU funding mechanism in all likelihood and just for reference The EU budgets have failed their audit 18 consecutive times.
Over in Texas, some members of the State Board of Education wish for science text books in public schools to be re-written to cover creationism and other topics. From a distance, it looks alarming that government could have such a direct hand in the specification of the kind of scientific information that is disseminated. You can take this as an anti Open Access thing if you want, but seriously, I’m very uncomfortable with the idea that research could disappear or be modulated either through stupidity, mendacity or simple incompetence.
Today we’ve seen a direct effect of what happens when government cash ceases to flow. Thank about that.