Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Friday, June 01, 2007

Strengthening the NIH policy

The ACRL is calling for grassroots support to strengthen the NIH policy from a request to a requirement.  Excerpt:

Summary:  The National Institutes of Health currently has a policy in place designed to encourage NIH-funded researchers to deposit the final peer-reviewed manuscripts of their articles in PubMed Central, the digital library of the National Library of Medicine. The policy, which is voluntary, calls on researchers to make their research results openly accessible within one year of acceptance in a peer-reviewed journal. Under the voluntary policy, fewer than 4% of eligible manuscripts have been deposited in PubMed Central. Both the Board of Regents of the National Library of Medicine and NIH Public Access Working Group have concluded, "The NIH Policy cannot achieve its stated goals unless deposit of manuscripts becomes mandatory."

Issue for Libraries:  The present system of disseminating the results of publicly funded research is badly broken and severely limits access. The public pays for the research and very often the salary of the researcher as well. Research articles are then published in peer-reviewed journals, which charge subscription fees or per-article access fees. The cost of subscriptions has risen three times faster than inflation for more than 20 years and most subscriptions are unaffordable for most libraries. Journals typically demand to own copyright as well. 

Changes in federal policy and legislation for federally-funded research have the potential to greatly increase research access for faculty, students, and the general public, reversing to a substantial extent the loss in access that has resulted from journal price increases and subscription cancellations by libraries. If properly implemented, such policy changes will also protect the system of peer-reviewed journals.

Current Status: Congress is taking up Labor, Health and Human Services (LHHS) appropriations again. Both the House and Senate are considering LHHS appropriations bills, which could direct the NIH to amend its existing voluntary public access policy to become mandatory.

Action Needed: We ask grassroots advocates to work now to insert language supporting a mandatory NIH public access policy into the Senate and House versions of the LHHS appropriations bill while the subcommittees are still drafting. Specifically we ask you to:

  1. Schedule a visit to the local district office of your legislators over the Memorial Day recess (continues through Friday, June 1) or Independence Day recess (July 2-6). Explain to your Senator/Representative and his/her staff members why you support this language. (Search by zip code to find contact information...)
  2. Meet with your college/university government relations office and ask staff what your institution can do to voice support.
  3. Send a message about this to others on your campus and in your state asking them to take action.

Talking Points:

  • Every year, the NIH funds billions of dollars in scientific research.  U.S. taxpayers underwrite this research and they have a right to expect that its dissemination and use will be maximized, and also that they themselves will have access to it.
  • Faster and wider sharing of knowledge fuels the advance of science. Broad communication of research results is an essential component of the US government's investment in science. For the first time, the Internet makes it possible to share the latest scientific advances promptly with every scientist, physician, educator, and citizen who wants them.
  • NIH strongly supports this goal and has instituted a voluntary system intended to make scientific research more broadly available for use.  Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, that system is not working.  That is why NIH is now asking Congress to include language in the LHHS bill to make the program mandatory.  In fact, the House included similar language last year (which we believe the Senate was going to accept in conference), but due to the way the appropriations process concluded, it did not become law. 
  • The language we are asking for this year (and that was included last year) requires that results of NIH-funded research be deposited and preserved in an online database at NIH, freely accessible to the public, within one year of publication in a scientific journal....