The U.S. Senate has approved the FY2008 Labor, HHS, and Education Appropriations Bill (S.1710), including a provision that directs the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to strengthen its Public Access Policy by requiring rather than requesting participation by researchers. The bill will now be reconciled with the House Appropriations Bill, which contains a similar provision, in another step toward support for public access to publicly funded research becoming United States law.
“Last night’s Senate action is a milestone victory for public access to taxpayer-funded research,” said Heather Joseph, Executive Director of SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, a founding member of the ATA). “This policy sets the stage for researchers, patients, and the general public to benefit in new and important ways from our collective investment in the critical biomedical research conducted by the NIH.”
Under a mandatory policy, NIH-funded researchers will be required to deposit copies of eligible manuscripts into the National Library of Medicine’s online database, PubMed Central. Articles will be made publicly available no later than 12 months after publication in a peer-reviewed journal.
The current NIH Public Access Policy, first implemented in 2005, is a voluntary measure and has resulted in a deposit rate of less than 5% by individual investigators. The advance to a mandatory policy is the result of more than two years of monitoring and evaluation by the NIH, Congress, and the community.
“We welcome the NIH policy being made mandatory and thank Congress for backing this important step,” said Gary Ward, Treasurer of the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB). “Free and timely public access to scientific literature is necessary to ensure that new discoveries are made as quickly as feasible. It’s the right thing to do, given that taxpayers fund this research.”
Joseph added, “On behalf of the taxpayers, patients, researchers, students, libraries, universities, and businesses that pressed this bill forward with their support over the past two years, the ATA thanks Congress for throwing its weight behind the success of taxpayer access to taxpayer-funded research.”
Negotiators from the House and Senate are expected to meet to reconcile their respective bills this fall. The final, consolidated bill will have to pass the House and the Senate before being delivered to the President at the end of the year.
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