Alliance for Taxpayer Access

Action at the U.S. Congress

Congressional Conference Report Affirms Taxpayer Access to NIH-funded Research

The U.S. Congress gave its support for NIH to enhance public access to taxpayer-funded research when it wrote the conference report that corresponded to the FY 2005 Consolidated Appropriations Act (H.R. 4818, H Rept 108-792), legislation that included nine appropriations bills. Congress approved the Act on November 22, 2004, and the President subsequently signed the act into law.

The conference report language restated the initial NIH policy proposal to make research articles based on NIH funding available to the public free of charge. These articles were to have been publicly available via PubMed Central within six months after publication in a peer-reviewed journal, although the NIH responded to pressure from publishers by changing to a maximum of 12 months for the embargo period. The language also requested that NIH provide an annual cost accounting for implementing this policy as well as work with publishers of scientific journals to maintain the "integrity of the peer review system." The conference report text:

The conferees are aware of the draft NIH policy on increasing public access to NIH-funded research. Under this policy, NIH would request investigators to voluntarily submit electronically the final, peer reviewed author's copy of their scientific manuscripts; six months after the publisher's date of publication, NIH would make this copy publicly available through PubMed Central. The policy is intended to help ensure the permanent preservation of NIH-funded research and make it more readily accessible to scientists, physicians, and the public.

The conferees note the comment period for the draft policy ended November 16th; NIH is directed to give full and fair consideration to all comments before publishing its final policy. The conferees request NIH to provide the estimated costs of implementing this policy each year in its annual Justification of Estimates to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. In addition, the conferees direct NIH to continue to work with the publishers of scientific journals to maintain the integrity of the peer review system.

A U.S. House of Representatives committee with budgetary oversight of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), initiated the Congressional action by urging the institutes to provide for public access to NIH-research results paid for with U.S. taxpayer funds.The text was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives on September 9th. The language was part of the Appropriations Committee report 108-636 to accompany the fiscal year 2005 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, H.R. 5006.

When the Appropriations Committee presented this language to the full House a colloquy occurred between the chair of the subcommittee responsible for NIH oversight, the Honorable Ralph Regula (R-OH) and the Honorable Ernest Istook (R-OK), a fellow member of this committee which drafted the language. The language made it through deliberations by the House without amendment.

The Committee is very concerned that there is insufficient public access to reports and data resulting from NIH-funded research. 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 research. The Committee is aware of a proposal to make the complete text of articles and supplemental materials generated by NIH-funded research available on PubMed Central (PMC), the digital library maintained by the National Library of Medicine (NLM). The Committee supports this proposal and recommends NIH develop a policy, to apply from FY 2005 forward, requiring that a complete electronic copy of any manuscript reporting work supported by NIH grants or contracts be provided to PMC upon acceptance of the manuscript for publication in any scientific journal listed in the NLM's PubMed directory. Under this proposal, NLM would commence making these reports, together with supplemental materials, freely and continuously available six months after publication, or immediately in cases in which some or all of the publication costs are paid with NIH grant funds. For this purpose, "publication costs" would include fees charged by a publisher, such as color and page charges, or fees for digital distribution. NIH is instructed to submit a report to the Committee by December 1, 2004 about how it intends to implement this policy, including how it will ensure the reservation of rights by the NIH grantee, if required, to permit placement of the article in PMC and to allow appropriate public uses of this literature.

updated: 05.04.05