NIH Revises Public Access Policy

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) wants to wait up to 1 year after publication before posting a free copy of articles based on NIH-funded research on the web. That's double the length of time it proposed last fall in the wake of congressional pressure to give the public greater access to such research.

At the urging of Congress, NIH proposed last year that its grantees submit copies of their accepted manuscripts to its free PubMed Central archive, which would post them 6 months after publication. Publishers argued that the policy would bankrupt some journals and wipe out revenue needed by scientific societies (Science, 26 November, p. 1451).

Scientific societies are "pleased" with the revised NIH proposal, says Martin Frank, executive director of the American Physiological Society, noting that it is consistent with the policies of many not-for-profit journals (including Science). But he maintains that the archive isn't necessary, and that having both the archived manuscript and the published article on the Web will be confusing. Groups that pushed for quicker public access also had mixed reactions: "NIH punted," says Rick Johnson, director of the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Research Coalition. But he thinks the policy's impact "could be positive."

NIH was set to unveil its policy on 11 January. But the briefing was cancelled the evening before, prompting speculation that Bush Administration officials didn't want the issue to complicate hearings this week on the confirmation of Health and Human Services Secretary nominee Michael Leavitt.

Related site
Information on NIH's proposed policy