Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Thursday, June 21, 2007

OA mandate at the NIH expected in new appropriations bill

Jocelyn Kaiser, Senate Gives NIH a Raise, ScienceNOW Daily News, June 20, 2007.  Excerpt:

A Senate spending panel yesterday agreed to give the National Institutes of Health a $1 billion raise in 2008, a 3.5% increase that would bring NIH's budget to $29.9 billion. Although that's only half of what biomedical research advocates are hoping for, the increase is slightly more than the House has approved. Both bills would reverse President George W. Bush’s request for a $279 million cut....

Both the House and Senate bills are expected to require grantees to send a copy of their accepted manuscripts to NIH. The institute would then post the papers in a free online archive up to 12 months after they appear in a journal. Participation in the program is now voluntary, but the response rate has been tiny--only 4% of eligible papers are being submitted.

The full Senate Appropriations Committee will vote on the bill tomorrow; its House counterpart is expected to be acted on in July, and differences in the bills will need to be reconciled. But congressional action "is only half the battle," says Jon Retzlaff, legislative relations director for the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology in Bethesda, Maryland. President Bush has already promised to veto the final bill for exceeding his requested spending level.


  • This is big.  The expected OA mandate will finally strengthen the NIH policy from a request to a requirement.  Moreover, the call is coming from both houses of Congress at once.  Congress originally asked for a mandate in July 2004 and the agency chose to try a voluntary policy instead.  Congress is now saying that the voluntary policy, with a 4% compliance rate, has failed and does not meet the national goal of public access to publicly-funded research. 
  • The budget increase is also important.  It not only funds more medical research, and triggers the possibility of a Bush veto, but also helps answer the specious publisher objection that we cannot afford the cost of a public access program in a time of flat budgets --as if flat budgets were a reason to make high quality medical research harder to find and use.