Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Looking forward to the NIH mandate

Bill Containing NIH Policy Ready for Conference; Implementation Looms, Library Journal Academic Newswire, October 30, 2007.  Excerpt:

After nearly three years working the legislative process in favor of a public access policy for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), officials at SPARC know that anything can happen when it comes to the legislative process. Nevertheless, with Senate passage last week of a bill requiring NIH-funded researchers to deposit their final manuscripts in PubMed Central, to be publicly accessible within a year, House and Senate bills are now scheduled to be reconciled in conference next week, SPARC executive director Heather Joseph, told the LJ Academic Newswire. Acknowledging that there is always the potential for surprise, the first order of business, she noted, is to "stay the course until [the legislative] process is complete in the next week or so."

Nonetheless, supporters of the policy are starting to think about the next challenge: implementation. Should the policy, as expected, survive its fantastic voyage through the legislative process, encouraging compliance and monitoring the policy's impact will come next. "We'll definitely be watching compliance rates with great interest," Joseph said, with "full expectations" that under a mandate to deposit articles compliance rates will sharply rise from the dismal five percent deposit rate under the voluntary policy implemented in 2005, though not, of course, overnight.

"I expect it will take a little time," Joseph noted. "The NIH will need time to communicate the shift to a mandatory policy, but once they do, I think we'll see grantees respond." SPARC's member libraries, meanwhile, are "ready and willing to help grantees on their campuses work with the policy," she added. "After all, it's all about the good stuff that can happen once these articles are available." ...

In the meantime, as shown with the last second amendments to gut the policy introduced by Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) and the rather unusual attention of the White House, publishers' strong lobbying effort against the bill may not be over. Though the policy represents just a miniscule portion of the more than $940 billion appropriation bill, when it comes to conferencing, and possibly negotiations following a looming presidential veto, experts concede the policy could become fodder for horse trading in getting the bill done. Heavy bipartisan support, however, would seem to make that unlikely. If there's been one lesson from the last three-plus years, however, it is that the public access battle goes on.