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Mandatory Open Access

NIH switch from voluntary article posting follows legislation

by Susan R. Morrissey
January 21, 2008 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 86, Issue 3

NIH campus in Bethesda, Md.
Credit: NIH
Credit: NIH

Researchers supported by the National Institutes of Health will be required to submit all resulting peer-reviewed articles to the agency for posting on its publicly accessible database, PubMed Central, within 12 months of publication. The change from a voluntary to a mandatory posting policy comes less than a month after legislation requiring such a revision was signed into law.

The revised policy, announced on Jan. 11, applies to all articles on research funded in whole or in part by NIH and accepted for publication on or after April 7. The swiftness of NIH's change to its policy has caught some publishers, who have expressed concern about copyright issues, off guard.

"The surprise announcement by NIH of the implementation of the new mandatory public access policy is seemingly at odds with the recently implemented law that authorized the new mandate," says Glenn S. Ruskin, director of the American Chemical Society's Office of Legislative & Government Affairs. "The law directed NIH to implement the mandate in a manner consistent with copyright law, yet their announcement sidesteps responsibility for this requirement and instead foists it on the backs of NIH-funded researchers." ACS publishes C&EN as well as numerous scientific journals.

Ruskin says ACS and other publishers would have liked NIH to follow an inclusive process to solicit public comment on its proposal before announcing it.

NIH, however, says that its public access policy is consistent with the congressional language regarding copyrights. "We feel the public policy supports copyright law, so we didn't feel that an additional extensive comment period was necessary," says Norka Ruiz Bravo, deputy director of extramural research at NIH. She adds that NIH has been working with publishers since the inception of the public access policy, and the agency will continue to do so.

In terms of numbers, NIH is expecting on the order of 80,000 articles to be submitted under the mandatory policy. This will be a significant jump in articles supplied under the voluntary policy, which the agency estimates to be about 3,500 articles, or 5% of those eligible.



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