Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Senate committee approves OA mandate for NIH

Congressional Panel Favors Access To Publicly Funded Research, a press release from the Alliance for Taxpayer Access (ATA), June 28, 2007.  Excerpt:

Public access to NIH-funded research took a major step forward this week with Senate Appropriations Committee agreement to direct the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to require that its funded research be made publicly available on the Internet.

This milestone was immediately praised by the Alliance for Taxpayer Access (ATA), a coalition of patient groups, researchers, consumers, and libraries that has long called for such a step.

"The momentum is real and Congress understands the public's interest," said Heather Joseph, Executive Director of SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, an ATA founding member). "We congratulate Senators Tom Harkin and Arlen Specter for their bipartisan leadership on this issue."

"It is significant that Senate appropriators are determined to leverage the taxpayer investment in research by ensuring it can be broadly applied," added Joseph. "Two years after the well-intentioned voluntary NIH policy was introduced, too many researchers, students, small businesses, and people facing diseases still lack access to the publicly funded research they want and need. This is a big step in the right direction."

The Senate's 2008 appropriations bill specifically requires that NIH-funded researchers deposit in the National Library of Medicine's online archive [PubMed Central] an electronic copy of their peer-reviewed manuscripts upon acceptance for publication in a journal. Articles would become publicly available no later than 12 months after publication.

"Action by our Senators in supporting this change is especially welcomed by the patient community," said Colleen Zak, Executive Director of the Autosomal Recessive Polycystic Kidney Disease and Congenital Hepatic Fibrosis (ARPKD/CHF) Alliance. "Delivering on the NIH public access policy will create anticipated opportunities for accelerating research and finding cures."

Under the current NIH Public Access Policy, implemented in May 2005, investigators have deposited less than five percent of eligible manuscripts and, although a few publishers have also deposited articles stemming from NIH-funded research, the vast majority is not yet publicly available.

Congress has expressed concern about the voluntary policy's failure to meet its goals. However, this is the first time the Senate committee has proposed legislative action to correct the situation. The Senate measure is similar to one recently put forth by the House of Representatives Labor/HHS Appropriations Subcommittee.

The FY08 Senate Appropriations Bill is expected to go before the full Senate for a vote later this summer. The House Labor/HHS Appropriations measure will be considered by the full House Appropriations Committee in July.

PS:  Don't confuse this with last week's news that the OA mandate had been approved by the Senate appropriations subcommittee responsible for the NIH (the Senate Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies).  Today's news is that the full Senate Appropriations Committee has approved it.   This brings us one step closer to an OA mandate at the NIH.  But we're still several steps short of the goal and still need approval by the full Senate, approval of a similar bill by the House, reconciliation in a conference committee (if the two bills differ), and the signature of the President.