News Roundup [abridged Versions Appear In The Paper Journal]

NIH moves towards open access

BMJ 2004; 329 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.329.7466.590-c (Published 09 September 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;329:590
  1. Bob Roehr
  1. Washington, DC

    The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) has taken the first step to requiring that all published papers that are based on research it supports financially will be made freely available to the public.

    Notice of the regulatory changes was published on 3 September, opening a 60 day period for public comment. The process is likely to be concluded and to take effect early next year.

    The NIH intends to request that wherever research is supported in whole or in part by NIH funding it should be provided with electronic copies of all final versions of manuscripts on their acceptance for publication (after peer review and revisions), including those of international investigators. The submitted manuscript and supplemental information will be deposited in PubMed Central, the NIH's online biomedical repository. Six months after publication—or sooner if the publisher agrees—the manuscript will be made available freely to the public through PubMed Central.

    The publisher can request that the document be replaced with the publisher's copy and linked to the publisher's electronic database.

    The notice cites the NIH's long standing commitment to the timely sharing and supporting of public access to the results of the activities that it funds.

    It calls the proposed changes a “balance” of broader public access “with the ability of journals and publishers to preserve their critical role in the peer review process, editing, and scientific quality control process.” That includes possible financial implications to those journals.

    The move to open access has been building for some time in the United States. Key dates include the launching of PubMed Central in February 2000 under the aegis of the then director of the NIH, Harold Varmus, and the creation of the electronic publisher the Public Library of Science. The library received a huge boost when the Howard Hughes Medical Institute announced that it would underwrite any fees associated with publishing the work of their supported researchers in Public Library of Science.

    In December 2002 the Council of Public Representatives, an advisory body to the director of the NIH, recommended that the NIH should do the same. It subsequently clarified that grant funds could be used for this purpose.

    The House of Representatives made a request in July that the current director, Elias Zerhouni, report to it by 1 December on how the agency would implement public access. Dr Zerhouni has held a series of meetings with stakeholders on the subject over the summer.

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