November 15, 2004
As sent to:
Dr. Elias Zerhouni
126 NIH Bldg. 1
National Institutes of Health
9000 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, MD 20892
I am writing on behalf of the Alliance for Taxpayer Access (ATA) in support of the NIH proposed guidance, Notice Number NOT-OD-04-064, Enhanced Public Access to NIH Research Information. This timely proposal will make a substantial and highly useful resource of biomedical research far more widely available to many new and existing stakeholders.
The alliance is composed of universities, libraries, voluntary health agencies, and other entities seeking the benefits of greater access to research results. We believe American taxpayers are entitled to open access to the peer-reviewed scientific articles on research funded by the NIH. Open access to these reports will lead to usage by millions and will deliver an accelerated return on the taxpayers' investment in NIH. Widespread dissemination of these reports is an essential, inseparable component of our nation's investment in science.
Under the current system, many people who could make good use of NIH research do not have timely access to such information. Those whose access is impeded include research scientists at institutions that cannot afford increasingly costly journal subscription and licensing fees, practicing physicians without university affiliations, public health officials, hospital staff, non-profit patient and disease advocacy organizations, and individual patients and their families. Today's constraints on access hinder the flow of knowledge and pace of discovery, and ultimately subvert the public's investment in science. It is no longer enough for the federal government simply to fund biomedical research. The government must take steps to ensure that the findings from its research investments are widely and effectively disseminated at the community level to improve the delivery of health care and treatment of various diseases and conditions.
This proposed guidance utilizes the potential of today's computing technology and the Internet to increase the efficiency and reach of scientific communication. We view the NIH plan as a measured step that effectively balances the interests of publishers, protects peer-review, and lowers access barriers for new users of biomedical research. It is a constructive measure that, foremost, responds to fundamental public and scientific interests in having trusted biomedical research results widely available and used. It recognizes that sharing of this scientific knowledge can only accelerate medical research and improve the human condition.
We also note that the plan provides a means for NIH to better track the results of its investments in biomedical research. This important step is needed to allow NIH to serve as an effective steward of public resources and provide Congress and taxpayers with a fuller accounting of the results of our nation's investment in its scientific enterprise.
On behalf of the ATA, we enthusiastically commend, support and express our appreciation for NIH's proposed guidance addressing Enhanced Public Access to NIH Research Information. Thank you for this opportunity to share our views on your thoughtful proposal.
Richard K. Johnson
SPARC (Scholarly Publishing & Academic Resources Coalition)
on behalf of the Alliance for Taxpayer Access