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This has been a long time coming. I'd say we've been waiting for this day since July 14, 2004, when the House Appropriations Committee adopted report language calling for an OA mandate at the NIH. If NIH had adopted the mandate that summer or fall, it would have been the world's first OA mandate from a public funding agency. By the time it finally issued its mandatory policy in January 2008, it was the 21st. However, it did have the distinction of being the first to be demanded by the national legislature rather than adopted by the agency on its own.
For some of the history, see my timeline of the major developments in SOAN for August 2007, my update in November 2007, my coverage in January 2008 of the bill adopted by Congress and signed by the President, and my coverage in February 2008 of the policy released by the NIH in January.
For investigators and institutions now focused on compliance, see the implementation guidelines and resources I collected last week for the April issue of SOAN.
It has been a long, tiring campaign, but a successful one, opposed every step of the way by an aggressive and well-funded publishing lobby. The policy could be stronger, friends of OA are still trying to improve it, publishers are still lobbying to weaken it and threatening legal action to delay or derail it, and the NIH is still collecting public comments on it.
But we have reached this plateau: implementation day for the world's first mandatory OA policy demanded by the national legislature, at the world's largest funder of scientific research. It's a day worth celebrating.