Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, March 24, 2007

NIH Director believes an OA mandate is now necessary

Elias Zerhouni, Director of the NIH, told the Senate last week that the NIH public access policy should be strengthened from a request to a requirement.  He was testifying before the committee responsible for funding the agency.  Quoting the Alliance for Taxpayer Access:

During testimony before the Senate Labor/HHS Subcommittee on Appropriations, NIH Director Zerhouni responded to a series of questions on the need for public access to NIH-funded research results. The questions were made by Subcommittee Chair Senator Harkin (D-IA). Dr. Zerhouni reiterated the need for publicly funded research to be made available to advance the conduct of science, and strongly asserted that the NIH the voluntary policy was not working. He made clear that the policy should be made mandatory. A video of Dr. Zerhouni's testimony is available through the Committee Web site. (Note that the link launches a Real Media file. The relevant discussion begins at 1:20.)

Comment.  This is big.  Nearly a year ago, in April 2006, Dr. Zerhouni told the same committee that "it seems the voluntary policy is just not enough".  Now his position is considerably stronger.  As I transcribe the video, he said:  "We need to make [public access] a condition of federal fund granting....A mandatory policy seems to be the one that will be necessary for us to achieve our goals."

Remember that in July 2004, Congress asked for a mandate and the NIH chose to adopt a request instead.  Also remember that the policy is merely an in-house agency rule that the NIH can adopt or modify without a Congressional directive. 

Dr. Zerhouni:  Now that you have decided that a mandate is necessary, I hope you will exercise your authority as Director to adopt it.  The decision will bring large and lasting benefits to researchers in medicine and related fields, medical patients, practicing physicians, taxpayers, and the agency itself.