Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Happy Hollidays Open Access Movement

Well there is damn good news on the Open Access to scientific literature front. President Bush signed the big spending bill today that includes a provision requiring all papers coming from NIH funded work to be made freely available after 1 year. From the Washington Post:
Under the bill's terms, scientists getting grant money from the National Institutes of Health would now have to submit to the NIH a final copy of their research papers when those papers are accepted for publication in a journal. An NIH database would then post those papers, free to the public, within 12 months after publication.
I am giddy with excitement about this. Congratulations to all who lobbied so hard for this, such as Heather Joseph from SPARC. Her quote from the Post article is helpful here:
"The basic reason we went to bat so hard for this was because we thought it was the right thing to do with taxpayers' science," Joseph said. "Now there will be $29 billion in taxpayer investments freely available to the public," she said, referring to the NIH medical research budget


  1. Yes, this is indeed good news. However, among all the jubilation and uncorking of champagne, there hasn't yet been any analysis of the impact of the following clause in the law, that seems as awkward as an uninvited elephant at the party: "Provided, That the NIH shall implement the public access policy in a manner consistent with copyright law."

    Since many journal publishers are “NIH compliant” (meaning they allow NIH authors to post to PubMed Central with a 12 month embargo), this clause probably won’t be a problem in most cases. However, there are still some publishers that aren’t compliant. SHERPA/RoMEO lists 34 such publishers. So, authors may be prohibited from publishing in certain journals, at least until the publishers change their policies.

    All of this would be moot if NIH chose to assert its government purpose license (45 C.F.R. 74.36) and took advantage of its policy as elaborated in the NIH Grants Policy Statement (12/03), Part II: Terms and Conditions of NIH Grant Awards: “In all cases, NIH must be given a royalty-free, nonexclusive, and irrevocable license for the Federal government to reproduce, publish, or otherwise use the material and to authorize others to do so for Federal purposes.” However, so far, NIH hasn’t been willing to do this.

    Finally, 12 months is too long; 6 months has been demonstrated to be sufficient for the purpose of retaining subscribers. Indeed, immediate public access is preferred and would probably not make a significant dent in subscriptions. NIH has the authority to mandate immediate public access and they should do it.

  2. 1. I agree 12 months is too long. As is 6 months. And this is why I choose when possible to publish in PLoS or BMC or other journals that have instant OA. But I believe this step is an important beginning for full OA in the long run.

    2. I was not aware of the Copyright verbage. I will have to look into it more.

    3. It would be really great to get other funding agencies to adopt similar language. NSF seems like they should do this but I think they will be the hardest nut to crack.


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