Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Friday, February 04, 2005

More on the NIH policy

Alex Barnum, NIH-funded research to be available free, San Francisco Chronicle, February 4, 2005. Excerpt: 'The policy, although watered down from a draft version, represents a major victory for a growing "public access" movement whose proponents argue that it isn't fair that consumers and libraries must pay high costs for access to results of medical research that has been paid for with their taxes....In announcing the new policy, NIH director Dr. Elias Zerhouni said the goal is to "change the landscape" of scientific publishing....The NIH scaled back its policy from an earlier version that had called for research results to be posted within six months of publication. The scientific publishing industry had criticized the policy, arguing that it would hurt profits and undercut the peer-review system that they support....Publishers argue that producing scientific journals is expensive. Journals play an important role in editing manuscripts and assembling panels of scientists to "peer-review" articles before they're published. If the contents of their publications are made available for free, some people will stop subscribing, they argue. Advocates of open access say the industry is over-dramatizing. Even though 60,000 articles are published each year as a result of NIH funding, they make up only about a third of all the biomedical literature appearing in journals. [PS: There are other reasons to think the policy would not harm subscriptions.] A number of factors are driving the move toward open access of scientific literature: the low cost of publishing on the Internet; the ease of accessing information online, both by patients and by researchers; and the rising costs of scientific journals....Michael Eisen, a UC Berkeley assistant professor of genetics and a co- founder of PLoS, praised the NIH's announcement Thursday. "It has the potential to be a transformative event," he said. "The federal government is the world's biggest sponsor of scientific research. It has the singular potential to change the way scientific information is made accessible." He said much depended on whether NIH grantees perceived the policy not just as a suggestion but as an expectation. It also depends, he said, on how the publishing industry responds, and whether it puts restrictions on scientists' ability to post their edited manuscripts to a public Web site. "The publishers would be doing a disservice to the public," he said, "if they actively work to impede this system." '