Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Zerhouni: it's about the length of the embargo

Susan R. Morrissey, Elias A. Zerhouni, Chemical & Engineering News, July 3, 2006. A profile of the director of the NIH. Excerpt:
C&EN: An issue that is gaining congressional interest is public access. NIH has had a policy in place since May of last year that asks researchers it supports to voluntarily post resulting journal articles on PubMed Central as soon as possible, but no longer than one year after publication. Legislation has been introduced in the Senate that would make public access mandatory after six months. Is it possible to find a balance that will satisfy supporters who want tax-payer-funded research available for free as quickly as possible and publishers who worry that making publications free too quickly will hurt their ability to recoup the costs of publishing the journals?

Zerhouni: Absolutely, there's a need to find that sweet spot. What I've found with this issue is paralysis. You have the zealots on one side who are hammering for open access right away. And then on the other side, you have the zealots who say that open access is absolutely not right. In the middle is the taxpayers' interest.

I'm not driven by what the popular thing to do is; I'm driven by what's right. I believe that, number one, NIH needs a database of the research it funds so that it can have accountability and the ability to analyze its own portfolio. Our scientists must also have access to our portfolio of research so they can see what we've funded. So there's an internal need and an external need for accountability.

It is also important that at some point the public, which pays for 99.5% of this research, is not prevented from having access to it. But this access should not be done at the expense and viability of peer-reviewed scientific publishing --whether it be nonprofit or for profit.

I believe very strongly that a happy medium can be found. But if the happy medium causes a loss of viability in being able to produce good articles and good journals, it won't work.