Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Autism Speaks adopts an OA mandate

Autism Speaks (AS) has adopted an OA mandate for AS-funded research.  From today’s announcement:

Autism Speaks, the nation's largest autism advocacy organization, today announced that effective December 3, 2008, all researchers who receive an Autism Speaks grant will be required to deposit any resulting peer-reviewed research papers in the PubMed Central online archive, which will make the articles available to the public within 12 months of journal publication. This new policy will make the results of Autism Speaks-funded research easily accessible - at no charge - to individuals with autism, families and other advocates, as well as interested researchers. Autism Speaks is the first U.S.-based non-profit advocacy organization to institute this public access requirement.

Posting articles on PubMed Central not only makes the results of research more accessible, it also integrates them with other research and data, making it easier for scientists worldwide to pursue autism research and make discoveries....

"Families with autism are, by nature, motivated advocates constantly seeking new and reliable information to educate themselves," said Sophia Colamarino, Ph.D., Autism Speaks Vice President of Research. "They are also particularly sophisticated in their ability to read and interpret scientific literature pertaining to autism. This is an effort to give those families and their physicians access to important information about the latest developments in autism research."

"With each additional paper added to PubMed Central, the archive's value grows, and the peer-reviewed scientific literature becomes more open and better integrated with other data resources," said David J. Lipman, M.D., director of the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the National Library of Medicine division that maintains the archive. "I'm pleased that Autism Speaks approached us - I know their public access program will be good for research, and for patients and their families."

[Quoting] Heather Joseph, executive director of SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition)...: "By taking advantage of the opportunity for open information sharing on the Internet, they will both accelerate the pace of research and address the public's need to better understand autism. We hope other research funders will emulate this powerful example." ...

Comment.  Kudos to AS.  This is not just another funder mandate.  AS is primarily a non-profit advocacy organization, not a foundation, but it uses some of the money it raises to fund research on autism.  While 29 funding agencies have adopted OA mandates, AS is at the leading edge of a new breed of OA-mandating organizations.  As it points out, it's the first U.S.-based non-profit advocacy organization to adopt an OA mandate.  If we look beyond the US, it's hard to to know who was the very first in this category, but it might be the Arthritis Research Campaign, a UK non-profit with no public funds which adopted an OA mandate in January 2007.  If you know other examples, please drop me a line.

Update (11/13/08).  Also see Andrew Albanese's story in Library Journal.  Excerpt:

The move constitutes significant —and very public— support of the NIH public access policy. In 2007, Autism Speaks committed an unprecedented $30 million in new research funding to autism research. It has also generated significant attention to its cause via outreach efforts and resources for families. And, the group clearly has friends in Congress. Last year, Congress approved full funding of the Combating Autism Act, providing $162 million for programs at the NIH, Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).

The new policy comes at a crucial time for public access advocates. In September 2008, the NIH policy came under attack from the publishing community, whose support yielded the Fair Copyright in Research Act, which would prohibit the government from instituting public access policies like the one at NIH. In addition, Elias Zerhouni, the NIH executive director who spearheaded the public access policy and strongly defended it in hearings this year, announced in October that he will step down.
Adding a major new proponent to the public access cause is a welcome development for advocates, as indications are that the Fair Copyright in Research Act, shelved for now, will likely be revived in the next Congress. Heather Joseph, executive director of SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition), told the LJ Academic Newswire the Autism Speaks mandate was a “terrific affirmation of the power of public access, as well as the NIH policy,” specifically —and concurred that such support can only help in Congress. “Autism Speaks is demonstrating great vision and leadership,” Joseph said. “We hope other research funders will emulate this powerful example.” ...

Update (11/13/08).  For the variety of research grants awarded by Autism Speaks, and their budget lines, see the Annual Report for 2007, p. 10.

Update (12/7/08). Also see John Wilbanks' comments.