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NIH Unveils Draft Open-access Plan

Agency's policy closely resembles one proposed by Congress

by Susan R. Morrissey
September 13, 2004 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 82, Issue 37

A draft policy for open access to NIH-funded research was officially released by the health agency on Sept. 3 and posted for comment on its website. As released, the plan closely resembles one that had been suggested by Congress (C&EN, Sept. 6, page 14).

Under the proposed plan, once manuscripts describing research supported in whole or in part by NIH funds have been peer reviewed and accepted for publication, they would have to be submitted to PubMed Central, the agency's free digital archive of biomedical research. The manuscripts would then be posted on PubMed Central six months after journal publication. Final edits by the publisher might not be reflected in the NIH Web posting.

Reactions to the proposal were guarded; many groups still hope to influence the final plan. For example, the Association of American Publishers wasn't commenting, but a representative noted that the organization planned to ask Congress to study the situation.

The American Chemical Society--the publisher of 32 journals plus C&EN--is also looking at the draft policy closely. "ACS is pleased that NIH shares our long-standing mission of broadening online access to scientific information," the society said in a statement. "Serious issues, however, must be raised about NIH's current proposal. We support the call for a thorough, independent study of the possible consequences of this proposal before NIH makes an irrevocable commitment to its implementation."

Richard J. Roberts, research director at New England Biolabs and author of a letter to NIH on behalf of 24 fellow Nobel Laureates, calls the plan "acceptable" but thinks it could have gone further. "I would have preferred to see a plan that called for no delay, rather than the six months in the current proposal," he tells C&EN.

NIH will accept comments on the plan for 60 days, after which it intends to release a final plan.



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