[Paleopsych] CHE: House Committee Tells NIH to Post Research Results Online and Make Them Free

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House Committee Tells NIH to Post Research Results Online and Make Them Free
News bulletin from the Chronicle of Higher Education, 4.7.19

    In a coup for the open-access movement, the Appropriations Committee
    of the U.S. House of Representatives has recommended that the National
    Institutes of Health provide the public with free, online access to
    articles resulting from research it has financed.

    The recommendation is included in a report that accompanies a spending
    bill for the Departments of Labor, Education, and Health and Human
    Services for the 2005 fiscal year. The report says that within six
    months after an article is published, the NIH should make available
    researchers' final manuscripts via PubMed Central, a popular digital
    archive maintained by the National Library of Medicine.

    The report also instructs the NIH to submit a document to the House
    committee by December stating how it plans to carry out the

    The Association of American Publishers is aggressively pressing
    members of Congress to gut the open-access language in the report,
    saying that the recommendation is worded like a requirement and would
    threaten publishers' ability to decide when and if to make articles

    "To mandate the government to declare the open-access model as the
    model for government-funded research publication is not in the best
    interest of business and readers," said Barbara Meredith, the
    association's vice president for professional and scholarly

    The House Appropriations Committee, which approved the bill and the
    report on Wednesday, justified the recommendation by saying that
    taxpayers deserve free access to the results of research they helped

    "The committee is very concerned that there is insufficient public
    access to reports and data resulting from NIH-funded research," the
    committee report reads. "This situation, which has been exacerbated by
    the dramatic rise in scientific-journal subscription prices, is
    contrary to the best interests of the U.S. taxpayers who paid for this

    Scholars and librarians have long shared similar views.

    Indeed, librarians and the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources
    Coalition, or Sparc, have been lobbying the Appropriations Committee
    behind the scenes to include the open-access language in the
    committee's report, according to a Washington consultant familiar with
    the issue. Sparc is an alliance of university and research libraries
    working to cut costs and enhance competition in scientific publishing.

    "This is going to make more information available to more people,"
    James G. Neal, Columbia University's vice president for information
    services and its chief librarian, said of the House report. "That is
    in the public interest. It's in the government interest. It's in the
    national interest."

    Mr. Neal is chairman of Sparc's steering committee, which was
    instrumental in persuading the Appropriations Committee to adopt the
    open-access language. He said he hopes the committee's action last
    week will spur the government to consider whether articles resulting
    from research financed by other federal agencies should also be posted
    free online.

    He offered as an example research supported by the National
    Aeronautics and Space Administration. Scientific papers emerging from
    NASA-backed research, he said, are largely made available through
    expensive scholarly journals owned by commercial publishers.

    The Appropriations Committee's report caught the Association of
    American Publishers by surprise and prompted what Ms. Meredith
    described as a two-day "blitz" of telephone calls, letters, and faxes
    last week from publishers to members of Congress, urging them to
    reject the report.

    "It was authored by the NIH, and it really caught us off-guard," Ms.
    Meredith said. "We feel that no publishers were consulted on it."

    Specifically, the association wants the last sentence of the
    open-access language removed from the report. The sentence instructs
    the NIH to submit a report to the Appropriations Committee by December
    1, 2004, stating how it will carry out the recommendation.

    The publishers' group also wants to change the period after which
    articles would be made freely available. The report recommends six
    months. Ms. Meredith said it should state that articles would be
    posted after a "reasonable period after publication."

    A six-month time frame might strike some scholarly publishers as too
    short. The journal Science, for example, makes articles free on its
    Web site one year after they appeared in print.

    In letters to federal officials last month, officials of the
    publishers' group warned of the perils of open-access publishing.

    "Public policy that compels journal publishers to adopt a monolithic
    and unproven economic model of publishing could present a serious
    threat to science and the value that NIH-sponsored biomedical research
    delivers to society," stated the letters, which were sent to Elias
    Zerhouni, director of the NIH, and John H. Marburger III, director of
    the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

    The full House is expected to vote on the spending bill this week,
    before it adjourns for the summer. Ms. Meredith said her group would
    continue pushing to have the open-access language stripped from the
    report before that vote.

    If the language remains in the report, she said, the publishing group
    would lobby to have it removed when the Senate takes up its version of
    the spending bill. The Senate is likely to consider the bill after
    Labor Day.

    Background articles from The Chronicle:
      * [55]The Promise and Peril of 'Open Access' (1/30/2004)
      * [56]Publishers Fear Government Intervention (1/30/2004)


   45. mailto:andrea.foster at chronicle.com
   55. http://chronicle.com/weekly/v50/i21/21a01001.htm
   56. http://chronicle.com/weekly/v50/i21/21a01201.htm

E-mail me if you have problems getting the referenced articles.

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