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Friday, June 13, 2008

Sampling the latest comments to the NIH

As Comments Close on NIH Implementation, a Common Plea Emerges: Help Us, Library Journal Academic Newswire, June 13, 2008.  Excerpt:

On May 31, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) closed the comment period on implementing the agency's recently adopted public access mandate, which went into effect on April 7. Although it is still too early too tell how the implementation process is going in practice, from the 178 responses, which addressed four key questions, a common message seemed to emerge: help us. Respondents included investigators, university and library personnel, and publishers. While expressing varying levels of support or opposition for the NIH mandate itself, all seemed to encourage the NIH to offer more concrete guidance on how to ensure compliance with the access mandate, with efficiency in mind.

In comments, respondents cited challenges ranging from confusion over correct citations, to a wide range of policies?from journals, institutions, and funders?that could create confusion for those who must comply. Wyatt Hume, provost of the University of California (UC), wrote that UC remained "deeply concerned" that the policy does not address "complexities associated with the loosely-coupled roles of authors, principal investigators, institutions, and publishers."

Hume also observed that "publishers are under no obligation to assist, or even permit, authors to retain the rights needed to deposit their manuscripts in PubMed Central in compliance with the policy, and the authors' institutions generally have neither the legal standing nor the means to intervene." This "ambiguity about rights" is amplified, Hume noted, by the range of compliance methods that have emerged among publishers. "Some automatically deposit either the final published article or the author's final peer-reviewed manuscript in PMC, others have publication agreements that permit the authors to deposit, others authorize compliance only through the mechanism of an optional 'author pays' publication agreement, yet others provide unrestricted open access to all their publications." ...

"UC therefore strongly recommends," Hume wrote, "that NIH address this problem by establishing a systematic program, working with publishers and institutions, to define a single, simple model that facilitates and supports deposit of NIH-sponsored works in PMC."

That suggestion was echoed by Patrick White, writing on behalf of the Association of American Universities. White urged the NIH to help negotiate a blanket permissions agreement. "What is needed is a modified standard copyright agreement acknowledging that the author retains the right to provide a copy of the final manuscript to NIH for posting by NIH on PubMed Central within 12 months of publication by a given journal. We request that NIH work to encourage publishers to adopt such agreements." ...

Establishing a blanket license, however, would seem to be a tough sell for publishers. In an extended post, Association of American Publishers' Allan Adler, a strong critic of the policy and of the legislative process that enacted the policy, said that "blanket requirements in grant contracts would effectively deny authors and publishers the benefits of their copyrights." ...

While publishers have pushed for a federal rulemaking procedure, that is unlikely to happen. NIH will consider the range of comments [and] " analysis and results" for public view on the NIH site by September 30, 2008.