Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Friday, August 10, 2007

Another editorial calls for an OA mandate at the NIH

Public deserves access to NIH research work, Honolulu Advertiser, August 10, 2007.  An editorial.  Here it is in its entirety:

When it comes to how our tax dollars are spent, it's not too often these days that taxpayers can feel they're getting their money's worth.

So it's encouraging to see a measure in Congress designed to do just that.

Taxpayers pay about $28 billion annually to finance valuable research at the National Institutes of Health, resulting in more than 60,000 published studies yearly.

The problem is most of us never see those reports. The studies typically wind up in published journals that, in turn, sell the information to subscribers, commanding high subscription rates. Doctors, patients and the public need to pony up for the data.

And while NIH has a "voluntary initiative" calling for the taxpayer-funded research to be aggregated on a free Web site (PubMed Central), less than 5 percent of researchers comply.

That could soon change.

The House cleared a bill that would require NIH to provide free online access to its research articles within a year of publication in a peer-review journal. It's now up to the Senate to follow suit.

Publishers of the journals argue that mandatory public access holds potential copyright problems. And, of course, they worry that free access would discourage others from paying pricey subscription fees, affecting their bottom line.

The peer review system has value. But that doesn't mean publishers should continue to cash in endlessly. The bill allows publishers to continue the review process and sell journals for the first 12 months — catering to those who need the information quickly.

Beyond that, providing greater access will not only allow taxpayers to see the fruits of their financing, it also expands the chances of significant medical breakthroughs by allowing researchers to continue to build on valuable research. And that truly would maximize the return on our hard-earned tax dollars.