Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, October 27, 2007

More on the victory in the Senate

After Years of Effort, Mandatory NIH Public Access Policy Passes Congress, Library Journal Academic Newswire, October 25, 2007.  Excerpt:

In a victory for libraries, the Senate on October 23 passed an appropriations bill that included a mandatory public access directive for research funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Despite heavy lobbying from publishers against the public access provision, as well as White House opposition and the threat of two last-second amendments to gut it, the legislative battle culminated yesterday with overwhelming approval of the Labor, Health and Human Services appropriations bill (75-19). If enacted with the NIH language fully intact, the law would require NIH researchers to deposit their papers in the NIH's PubMed Central database to be publicly available within a year after publication.

The legislative process, however, is far from over. The bill must now be reconciled with the House Appropriations Bill, which contains a similar public access provision. Negotiators from the House and Senate are expected to meet this fall. The final, consolidated bill will then have to pass the House and the Senate before being delivered to the President, where it is expected to be vetoed. Although the public access provision enjoys broad support, and the LHHS appropriations bill passed with hefty margins, the House bill passed with 279 votes, 11 short of the number needed to override a presidential veto.

Nevertheless, SPARC executive director Heather Joseph said even with many hurdles remaining, passage by Congress was "a milestone."
Indeed, getting a public access policy at NIH through Congress has been a three-year odyssey for SPARC, an early and integral champion of the policy. The initially proposed NIH policy was introduced in 2004 as a mandatory policy with a six-month embargo. In a bitter setback, it was gutted at the eleventh hour, and implemented in 2005 as a voluntary measure. Lawmakers and advocates, however, vowed they would monitor the policy's effectiveness. By 2006, the policy was failing so spectacularly (less than five percent of individual investigators deposited papers) that it no doubt helped marshal the heavy bipartisan support for the revised NIH policy passed on Tuesday....

Publishers, meanwhile, remain opposed to the NIH policy, contending it could undermine scholarly publishing, and they will likely have more opportunities to fight the public access mandate, either during reconciliation and/or if the LHHS appropriations bill is vetoed. They have also laid the groundwork for a legal challenge to the suit centered on copyright. While copyright experts doubt that claim could ultimately prevail, it could nevertheless delay implementation, giving publishers another chance to organize opposition in 2009.

PS:  This is a good brief recap of the three-year struggle to date.  For some dates and links to specific landmarks in that struggle, see my article in SOAN for August 2007.