Magazine article Information Today

NIH OA Mandate Passes

Magazine article Information Today

NIH OA Mandate Passes

Article excerpt

One of the major victories in the open access (OA) movement was ushered in quietly during what is typically known as vacation week in Washington, D.C. On Dec. 26, President George W. Bush signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2007, a $555 billion spending bill that weaved its way around the House of Representatives, the Senate, the White House, and then back again since July. In one final dash of the presidential pen, it was done, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) had a mandate to make all of its funded research OA. This requirement represents a historic first for a U.S. government agency and one of the largest single mandates worldwide.

The Public Access Policy, which was initially implemented as a weak voluntary measure in 2005, will now require a researcher (or an OA publisher) to directly deposit digital copies of peer-reviewed articles into the National Library of Medicine at PubMed Central upon acceptance and to publish them online no later than 12 months after publication. The OA community would have preferred a requirement of 6 months after publication, but its members still cheered. No doubt, some New Year's Eve champagne was opened a bit before its time.

Finally Yielding Big Results

According to a press release from the Alliance for Taxpayer Access (a leading coalition in support of OA), "Years of unrelenting commitment and dedication by patient groups and our allies in the research community have at last borne fruit." Sharon Terry, president and CEO of Genetic Alliance, continued by saying, "We're proud of Congress for [its] unrelenting commitment to ensuring the success of public access to NIH-funded research. As patients, patient advocates, and families, we look forward to having expanded access to the research we need."

Still, I am enjoying this blissful tranquility as I put aside the thought that the publishing lobby is no doubt sharpening its legal weapons and drafting its own counter offensive. Clearly, the old approach used by the publishing lobby slowed overall progress, and some of the most recent efforts under PRISM were also questionable.

But to use a cliched phrase, there has indeed been a "sea of change," and an event such as this ranks with The New York Times freely offering its contents and its archives.

What Happens Next?

Some publishers may decide to do what Tim Gunn, the host on the television show Project Runway, tells designers in problematic situations, "Just make it work." At this point, it is too early to know how different federal agencies and even funding agencies in other countries will respond to the passage of this mandate. As Stevan Harnad notes in Open Access Archivangelism, according to the Registry of Open Access Repositories there are now "21 fundermandates, 11 institutional-mandates, and 3 departmental-mandates, plus 5 proposed-funder-mandates, 1 proposed-institutional-mandate, and 2 proposed-multiinstitutional-mandates (worldwide) a total of 35 mandates already adopted and 8 more proposed so far."

"It will trigger more mandates, particularly among other federal agencies in the U.S. Some will wait to see how the mandate works out at the NIH, but some already want to adopt OApolicies and are only waiting for a green light from Congress," writes Peter Suber, author of the SPARC Open Access Newsletter. …

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