Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Impact of the NIH policy

Kristopher A. Nelson, The Impact of Government-Mandated Public Access to Biomedical Research: An Analysis of the New NIH Depository Requirements.  A preprint, self-archived June 2008.

Abstract:   On December 26, 2007, President Bush signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2008. The bill, which became Public Law 110-161, contained a new requirement that manuscripts developed through funding by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) be made available to the public, free of charge, within one year after publication. This new mandatory requirement struck a compromise position between the existing pay-to-access model of private journal publishers and the potential free-for-all of the public domain. But did it go far enough? Should Congress have adopted a more aggressive policy of opening access to research? Alternatively, did Congress go too far, and as a result have we crippled scientific publishing?

From the conclusion:

...[The permissible 12 month embargo is too long.]  A year is simply too long a time period for the law to have a significant impact on how scientists learn from other scientists. Nonetheless, this time frame is good enough in many cases for the general public, for students, and for researchers working outside their primarily discipline. It also provides useful access for scientists and doctors in developing countries. For these groups, free access may well open up opportunities for research that they would otherwise never have had. A move from no access to some access is significant. In addition, by retaining works outside the bounds of the business operations of journal publishers, there is a much-reduced possibility that large swaths of manuscripts will be lost over time....

One unanticipated negative impact has been on the scientific support staff at institutions and universities....

But overall, the move towards greater public access to research is a move in the right direction. The benefits of long-term archiving and free access by those who might not otherwise be able to afford it outweigh the negatives of increased support-staff workload and potentially reduced markets for traditional publishers....