Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Lancet supports NIH plan with qualifications

NIH research: widening access, building collaboration, The Lancet, October 16, 2004. An unsigned editorial. Excerpt: "The accelerated way in which NIH's plan was devised has led the Association of American Publishers (AAP) to declare that they have felt "steamrolled" by Zerhouni's haste. Patricia Schroeder, AAP's president, argues that there has been a damaging failure to hold congressional hearings and establish an 'evidentiary record' about NIH's proposal. In a statement about an earlier version of this policy, released by a US House of Representatives Appropriations Subcommittee, she claims that if the idea were to be implemented unchanged, it 'would threaten the continued survival of many scientific, scholarly, and medical publications and professional societies'....But, as editors of a journal that publishes research funded by the NIH, we disagree with Schroeder's central claim. Widening access to research is unlikely to bring the edifice of scientific publishing crashing down. Schroeder provides no evidence that it would do so; she merely asserts the threat. This style of rebuttal will not do. Indeed, the aggressive rhetorical line taken by the AAP unnecessarily pits publishers against the interests of science and the public....[I]n our view, Zerhouni is on the right track. But as the AAP's reaction demonstrates, he needs to do more to explain the problem he is trying to resolve, describe more clearly the benefits of the solution he is attempting to introduce, and show that he is listening to reasonable criticism. Anxieties about version control, for example, are real, serious, and important. Multiple different published versions of the same work will serve neither science nor the public. A willingness to negotiate over the 6-month watershed would be a further welcome sign of goodwill."