Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

More JAM about the NIH policy

On November 1, Rick Weiss wrote in the Washington Post:

At issue is whether scientists funded by the National Institutes of Health should be required to publish the results of their research solely in journals that promise to make the articles available free within a year after publication.

This is not true.  As I wrote in my blog comment:  "The policy would require deposit in an OA repository (PubMed Central), not submission to OA journals.  It's about green OA, not gold OA." 

Then on November 5, an unsigned editorial in The Journal Times of Racine, Wisconsin, repeated the Post error:

Within the Health and Human Services appropriations bill now before Congress is a requirement that scientists funded by the National Institutes of Health publish their research results in scientific journals which will make them available to anyone, for free, after one year.

Now today, Nature News repeats the error:

US investigators funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) may soon be compelled to publish only in journals that make their research papers freely available within one year of publication.

And Slashdot picks up the error from Nature News:

Congress is expected to vote this week on a bill requiring investigators funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to publish research papers only in journals that are made freely available within one year of publication.

I don't blame Slashdot for picking up language from Nature, but I did expect Nature to base its language on the bill itself.

Here's the NIH provision in its entirety from the LHHS appropriations bill just approved by both houses of Congress (see the House bill or the Senate bill):

The Director of the National Institutes of Health shall require that all investigators funded by the NIH submit or have submitted for them to the National Library of Medicine's PubMed Central an electronic version of their final, peer-reviewed manuscripts upon acceptance for publication to be made publicly available no later than 12 months after the official date of publication: Provided, That the NIH shall implement the public access policy in a manner consistent with copyright law.

NB:  It's all about deposit in PMC.  There isn't a word about where authors should or should not submit their work.  There isn't a word about journal access policies.

Although this outbreak is new, the Post-Times-Nature-Slashdot error is old.  In January 2006 it was already old: 

Ignorance and misunderstanding have always been obstacles to OA, but for at least two years now a single misunderstanding has been a major player.  We need a name for the mistake of thinking that a mandate to deposit work in an OA repository is really a mandate to submit work to an OA journal....Let's call it the Journal-Archive Mixup (JAM).  In 2004 most publishers with an opinion about the NIH public-access policy made JAM in their responses to it, and were repeatedly corrected by OA activists and the NIH itself.  The UK government made JAM in response to the OA recommendations by House of Commons Science and Technology Committee and was repeatedly corrected by journalists, OA activists, and the House of Commons....

Ray English and I have sent a letter to the Post to correct the error.  But we can't keep up with this rapidly spreading virus.  If you see a newspaper, journal, blogger, or listserv contributor repeat the Journal-Archive Mixup, please send a correction.

Update. Stevan Harnad seconds the motion.

Update. Andrea Gawrylewski has picked up this story for The Scientist, Media bungles open access details, November 13, 2007. (Thanks, Andrea.)

Update. The letter to the editor that Ray English and I wrote to the Washington Post is now online, November 13, 2007 (p. A18).