Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Friday, January 18, 2008

More on the NIH OA mandate

Jocelyn Kaiser, Uncle Sam's Biomedical Archive Wants Your Papers, Science Magazine, January 18, 2008 (accessible only to subscribers).  Excerpt:

If you have a grant from the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), you will soon be required to take some steps to make the results public. Last week, NIH informed its grantees that, to comply with a new law, they must begin sending copies of their accepted, peer-reviewed manuscripts to NIH for posting in a free online archive. Failure to do so could delay a grant or jeopardize current research funding, NIH warns....

Only about 12% of authors are complying with the [current] voluntary policy...and of 80,000 eligible articles per year, only 20% to 25% are being submitted either by authors or directly by journals, says David Lipman, who oversees PMC.

NIH says it is ready for the glut of manuscripts it will soon receive, but there are signs that some scientists may be confused about what to submit. For example, NIH is already removing old papers that authors mistakenly posted in PMC. Lipman acknowledges that there will be "a learning process" but notes that traffic on the site is already "huge," with 12 million article views each month.

NIH's brief notice simply states that the policy is mandatory for all articles accepted on or after 7 April. Initially, NIH requested that only original research be archived at PMC, but now the agency says the policy has been expanded to include review articles if they were peer-reviewed. Many journals retain copyright of the manuscripts they publish, so authors must obtain permission to post a copy on the NIH site. It is up to investigators and their institutions to figure out whether their submissions comply with the journals' policy.

To give scientists a nudge, NIH will require them to include the PMC number when they cite their own papers in grant applications and progress reports. Other possible ways of forcing scofflaws to comply range from having a program director call with a reminder to "the most extreme: suspending funds," says NIH Deputy Director for Extramural Research Norka Ruiz Bravo. "We hope we're not going to get there," she says.

The new law puts NIH in line with some other funding agencies that require grantees to send their papers to PMC or a U.K. version of the archive; these include the U.K.'s Medical Research Council and Wellcome Trust, which adopted such policies in 2006, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) in Bethesda, Maryland, whose rule goes into effect this month (see table). All three institutions require that papers be posted within 6 months of publication in a journal. NIH differs in one way: Whereas other funders help pay author fees that some journals charge to make the full text immediately available, NIH is not offering any extra money for "open access," Ruiz Bravo says....

Scientists who have been sending their papers to PMC say the process is relatively easy, but keeping track of each journal's copyright policy is not....

As for journals, although most major biomedical publications (including Science) already allow authors to submit manuscripts to PMC, some publishers say they will need to police the site for articles mistakenly posted, such as those not yet released from the journal's embargo or those published before 2005. Martin Frank, executive director of the American Physiological Society, says APS asked NIH to remove 78 papers last year, and he expects "hundreds" of similar errors when the mandatory policy kicks in. Lipman acknowledges that NIH had to remove some papers. But complying with copyright, he says, is not NIH's responsibility; it's "between the author and the publisher."

Comment.  I'm confused on one point.  Kaiser paraphrases Norka Ruiz Bravo: "Whereas other funders help pay author fees that some journals charge to make the full text immediately available, NIH is not offering any extra money for 'open access.'" Ruiz Bravo should know, of course, but her statement seems to conflict with Question E3 of the new FAQ:

Will NIH pay for publication costs?

Yes. The NIH will reimburse publication costs, including author fees, for grants and contracts on three conditions: (1) such costs incurred are actual, allowable, and reasonable to advance the objectives of the award; (2) costs are charged consistently regardless of the source of support; (3) all other applicable rules on allowability of costs are met.

As I read it, this passage covers publication fees at fee-based OA journals as well as page charges at TA journals.  One way to reconcile it with Ruiz Bravo's statement in Kaiser's article is to be very literal.  Perhaps NIH won't offer "extra money" to pay publication fees at fee-based OA journals, but it will allow grantees to use grant funds for the purpose.  More later, if I learn more on this point.