Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Friday, July 25, 2008

More evidence that mandates work

PubMed Central Submissions Jump Sharply Under New NIH Policy, Library Journal Academic Newswire, July 24, 2008.  Excerpt:

In the months since passage of the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) mandatory public access policy in late December of 2007, the number of submissions to the National Library of Medicine’s (NLM) PubMed Central (PMC) repository, where authors are now required to deposit their NIH-funded research papers, has risen significantly.

According to NIH statistics, submissions to PMC began steadily rising in December 2007, soon after it became clear a mandatory policy would be adopted in 2008. By the first month following passage of the new policy, January 2008, monthly submissions to PMC hit an all-time high of 1255, and have continued to increase significantly every month so far this year. In April 2008, when the policy officially took effect, submissions spiked even more sharply, rising from 1852 total submissions in March, to 2,765 in April and 2,593 in May. The April/May 2008 figures represent well over double the number of submissions for the same months in 2007 (1,198 PMC submissions in April ’07; 948 in May ’07). Although official figures for June have not yet been posted, the NIH’s Dr. David Lipman told the LJ Academic Newswire the submission totals were higher than May.

It’s still too early to compute compliance rates, Lipman noted, but the early returns suggest a stunning turnaround. “Looking at the increase in submissions and the dramatic increase in journals signing PMC Publisher Participation agreements,” Lipman suggested a “reasonable projection” would be a compliance rate “around 55-60 percent.” Adoption of the “mandatory” NIH policy was spurred by abysmal compliance rates under the NIH’s first public access policy, adopted in 2005, which, after considerable pushback from publishers opposed to a deposit mandate, was scaled back to a voluntary policy at the 11th hour. In February, 2006, NIH reported to congress that compliance rates under the voluntary policy lagged around four percent.

SPARC executive director Heather Joseph told the LJ Academic Newswire she expected PMC deposits to remain strong, and said the spike in submissions validated the work done by NIH and the policy’s supporters, including libraries, to educate NIH investigators about the policy, including workshops, podcasts, and an array of web resources.

Comments.  This good news is especially good in light of two background facts:

  1. We're not just comparing deposit rates under a mandatory policy with deposit rates under a voluntary policy.  In the last year or so under the voluntary policy, publishers (led by the AAP/PSP) were trying hard to boost compliance in order to head off pressure to impose an OA mandate.
  2. No one should be surprised if the submission numbers climb slowly.  Before works can be submitted to PMC under the new policy, researchers must receive their grants, do their research, write it up, and get it accepted for publication.  For that reason, most of the recent submissions must be from previous grants and a much larger spike from new research is still to come.