Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

NEJM on the NIH policy

Robert Steinbrook, Public Access to NIH-Funded Research, New England Journal of Medicine, April 28, 2005. An editorial. Excerpt: '[T]he initiative may continue to rile some journal editors and publishers. Some view aspects of the policy such as its strong encouragement of ensuring public accessibility of manuscripts "as soon as possible" as potential threats to the integrity of their content, their Web sites, and their revenue sources. Although the policy states that "the author will specify the timing of the posting of his or her final manuscript," many journals seek to maintain a 6-month or 12-month delay between their publication of an NIH-funded study and its availability through PubMed Central. Some have announced their intention of transferring articles directly to PubMed Central on behalf of their authors, with instructions about when the articles should be made public. A specific concern is the effect of posting a version of a manuscript that may include uncorrected content errors or conclusions that are later revised, particularly if the article has implications for patient care. In response, the National Library of Medicine has said that PubMed Central will be able to accommodate corrections of content errors and other necessary revisions to manuscripts.2 In practice, this may be difficult to do on a consistent basis, particularly when timelines are tight or if PubMed Central is not notified of the necessary changes....[I]nvestigators may be caught between the NIH policy and the policies of journals in which they seek to publish their work, and journals and publishers may be caught between their support for the public health mission of the NIH and their own self-interest....As the public-access policy takes effect, there are high expectations for quick movement toward timely availability of all publications from NIH-supported research. PubMed Central, however, could soon receive 5000 papers a month, or only a few hundred. It should rapidly become obvious whether the policy is working as the NIH and Congress intended.'