Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Friday, February 04, 2005

More on the NIH policy

Peter Gorner, NIH approves free access to publicly funded studies, Chicago Tribune, February 4, 2005. Excerpt: 'After years of heated debates and under pressure from Congress, federal health officials announced Thursday a historic new policy to give the public free access to scientific findings paid for with tax funds....Most publicly funded research studies are available only by buying expensive subscriptions to the journals that publish them, or on a pay-per-article basis. Under the new policy, when a woman with breast cancer goes online she would have access to a free central archive of the latest published studies, which could help her make better-informed decisions about treatment. Or a family seeking the results of clinical trials affecting a loved one no longer would be denied access to the information unless they were willing to pay. "I commend the NIH for encouraging scientists and publishers to make more federally funded research publicly available in a single, searchable archive. Taxpayers paid for this research, and they deserve prompt access to it," said Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, the ranking Democrat on the appropriations subcommittee that funds NIH....Considered the leading biomedical research institution in the world --as well as the largest-- NIH spends 85 percent of its $28 billion budget on competitive research grants and contracts to an estimated 212,000 researchers affiliated with 2,800 facilities in the United States. These scientists are conducting studies and experiments, and churning out an estimated 60,000 published papers a year. The journals, which get the papers for free, send them out for evaluation by scientific peers and handle distribution costs. The limited access to information and the high cost of subscriptions have been decried by researchers, libraries, physicians, health-care workers, students and universities....An earlier draft of the NIH plan that drew praise from Congress and patient-advocacy groups asked scientists to post papers online within six months of publication. The new plan would extend publishers' control to a year. The extension was not a case of caving in to the publishing industry, said NIH director Dr. Elias A. Zerhouni. "Our goal is to change the landscape of scientific publishing by opening up a venue for scientists to do the right thing. The goal is to make this research available to the public without damaging the peer-review process," Zerhouni said. "We're saying that scientists should release their findings as soon as possible for the benefit of the public. After all, the public paid for them." NIH expected that "only in limited cases will authors deem it necessary to select the longest delay period," Zerhouni said.'