National Institutes of Health Public Access Policy

Issues - National Institutes of Health Public Access Policy Announcement

Public Access Plan in Effect to Make NIH-funded Research Available

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1) Contact Congress now to express your support for public access to taxpayer-funded research and for this bill. Act now through the ATA Legislative Action Center.

2) Issue a public statement of support from your organization and share it widely with members, colleagues, and the media. Send a copy to sparc [at] arl [dot] org to be featured here.

3) Join the Alliance to support the continued advancement of public access to research in the U.S. Institutional membership is FREE.

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5) Add this image to your Web site and show your support for taxpayer access to federally funded research:
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6) Explore our Issue pages for time-sensitive calls to contact Congress and express your support

Current Status

On March 11, 2009, President Obama signed into law the 2009 Consolidated Appropriations Act, including a provision to make the National Institutes’ of Health (NIH) Public Access Policy permanent. The NIH Revised Policy on Enhancing Public Access requires eligible NIH-funded researchers to deposit electronic copies of their peer-reviewed manuscripts into the National Library of Medicine’s online archive, PubMed Central (PMC). Full texts of the articles are made publicly available and searchable online in PMC no later than 12 months after publication in a journal.

The NIH policy was previously implemented with a provision that was subject to annual renewal. Since the implementation of the revised policy the percentage of eligible manuscripts deposited into PMC has increased significantly, with over 3,000 new manuscripts being deposited each month. The PubMed Central database is a part of a valuable set of public database resources at the NIH, which are accessed by more than 2 million users each day.

The NIH Public Access Policy addresses the public’s growing need for high-quality health information and promotes accelerated scientific advancement in the biomedical sciences.

Monthly Aggregate Submission Statistics from NIHMS

Monthly Aggregate Submission Statistics from NIHMS


June 28, 2007

Congressional Panel Favors Access to Publicly Funded Research – Public access to NIH-funded research took a major step forward this week with Senate Appropriations Committee agreement to direct the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to require that its funded research be made publicly available on the Internet. (Read our announcement for more details).

The full House Appropriations Committee has yet to vote. Express your support today.

June 5, 2007

The NIH Public Access Policy is under consideration by Congress as part of the FY08 Labor/HHS Appropriations Bill. Supporters are encouraged to contact their Representatives and Senators as soon as possible to request that the policy be made mandatory. The House and Senate are expected to mark up their versions of the Bill before the end of June.

March 19, 2007

During testimony before the Senate Labor/HHS Subcommittee on Appropriations,, NIH Director Zerhouni responded to a series of questions on the need for public access to NIH-funded research results. The questions were made by Subcommittee Chair Senator Harkin (D-IA). Dr. Zerhouni reiterated the need for publicly funded research to be made available to advance the conduct of science, and strongly asserted that the NIH the voluntary policy was not working. He made clear that the policy should be made mandatory. A video of Dr. Zerhouni's testimony is available through the Committee Web site. (Note that the link launches a Real Media file. The relevant discussion begins at 1:20).

October 3, 2006

NIH Director Zerhouni responded to a letter from SPARC Executive Director Heather Joseph, indicating that the NIH understood that a voluntary policy was not likely to produce the results needed for the NIH to achieve its goals, and that he was actively considering ways to strengthen the policy.

September 26, 2006

House legislation to provide for a sweeping overhaul of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) – the first of its kind in 13 years – includes key report language underscoring Congressional oversight to actively monitor participation rates and overall effectiveness of the NIH's Public Access Policy. The senate will consider the proposed Act in November 2006 or early 2007.

June 2006

In June 2006, The US House of Representatives signaled its strong support for the NIH public access to be made mandatory, including language in the body of the FY07 Labor HHS Appropriations bill directing the NIH to require its grantees to deposit manuscripts into PubMed Central, the NIH’s publicly accessible online repository:

SEC. 220. The Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) shall require that all investigators funded by the NIH submit an electronic version of their final, peer-reviewed manuscripts upon acceptance for publication to the NIH National Library of Medicine's PubMed Central as soon as practicable but no later than 12 months after the official date of publication.

The Senate was silent on this in its FY07 bill; final status will likely be decided in Conference later in 2006.

May 2, 2006

On the first anniversary of the implementation of the NIH Public Access Policy, Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Joe Lieberman (D-CT) introduce the Federal Research Public Access Act of 2006, which would ensure public access within six months of publication to the results of research funded by eleven U.S. federal agencies, including the NIH.

April 2006

On April 10, 2006, the NIH Public Access Working Group concluded for the second time that, in order for the public access policy to achieve its stated goals, it needed to be made mandatory. Additionally, polled once again by Chairman Detre, the Working Group agreed that the embargo period should be reduced from a period of one year to a maximum of six months.

February 2006

The NLM Board of Regents ratified the recommendations of the Public Access Working Group on February 8, 2006, sending a letter to NIH Zerhouni confirming that they agreed that they policy should become mandatory, and the embargo period reduced to 6 months.

Later that month NIH Director Elias Zerhouni delivered a report on the status of the policy as requested by both the US Senate and House of Representatives Labor HHS Appropriations Committees. The report indicated that compliance with the policy fell far short of expectations, with less than 5% of all eligible manuscripts being submitted to the system, and pointed to the recommendations of the Board of Regents as a potential way to strengthen the policy.

November 15, 2005

At the first business meeting of the Public Access Working Group, the committee received initial information on statistics related to researcher compliance with the policy, which was extremely low, under 5%. Chairman Thomas Detre explicitly polled the committee on recommendations to strengthen the policy. The majority indicated they support making the policy mandatory, and reducing the embargo period to six months.

Summer 2005

In report language accompanying the FY06 Labor HHS Appropriations Bill, both the House of Representatives and the Senate expressed support for the need for a NIH public access policy, but also concern that the current, voluntary policy would not be sufficient to achieve the agency’s goals.  Congress requested that the NIH track investigator compliance with the voluntary policy, and to report on progress with policy by March 2006.

May 2005

The NIH soonafter convened a Public Access Working Group of expert stakeholders - 17 individuals representing researchers, publishers, societies, libraries, and the public - to advise them on the effective implementation of the public access policy.

May 2, 2005

On May 2, the National Institutes of Health launched their public access system designed to make more of the research resulting from their grants available online and free to the public. In a June letter [PDF] addressed to the Alliance for Taxpayer Access, NIH Director Elias Zerhouni described his plans to post on a monthly basis the rate at which NIH-funded researchers are submitting to the public access system and allowing access to their research articles via the NIH's publicly accessible archive. The NIH archive is made available on the World Wide Web at PubMed Central.

The public access system implements a policy announced on February 3, 2005 Policy on Enhancing Public Access to Archived Publications Resulting from NIH-Funded Research, as published in their online Guide for Grants and Contracts. It requests scientists who have received NIH funding to deposit their resulting research articles upon acceptance for publication in an NIH electronic archive. The author will also specify when after publication the article can be made available online, preferably within 12 months of acceptance for publication. The material in the archive is then openly available with no charge for the public to access the information.

The final policy represents major changes from an initial NIH proposal published on September 3, 2004, NOT-OD-04-064, Enhanced Public Access to NIH Research Information. The initial proposal would have required that NIH-funded research be made available online, within six months of publication, for no extra charge to the American public. The NIH revised their initial proposal based on input during a public comment period that lasted until November 16, or 60 days following its publication in the Federal Register. The NIH Guide is the official publication for NIH medical and behavioral research grant policies, guidelines and funding opportunities.

NIH-funded scientists would deposit their article manuscripts, as accepted for journal publication and that incorporate any changes resulting from the peer review process, into the publicly accessible PubMed Central. The NIH's National Library of Medicine (NLM) maintains PubMed Central as part of its mission to manage the wealth of information resulting from the taxpayer's investment in medical research. PubMed Central would provide indexing and searching tools to the articles, as well as links to the publisher's version of the article, which is usually enhanced through additional editing.

The NIH proposed this policy in response to urging by a U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee report that recommended NIH “develop a policy...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 a recognized scientific journal. It calls on NIH to report back to the committee by December 1, 2004 on how it intends to implement the policy. More detail is available, including the full text of the committee's proposal.

This congressional report language is heavily influenced by a document prepared by the NLM at the request of the Appropriations subcommittee charged with oversight of the NIH. The document, Access to Biomedical Research Information was delivered in May 2004.

NIH Director Elias Zerhouni met with publishers on July 28, 2004, to discuss the PubMed Central proposal coming out of the Appropriations Committee. Additional meetings took place with public interest groups and scientists in late August.

SPARC Director Rick Johnson took the opportunity to submit a letter to Dr. Zerhouni expressing SPARC's support for the proposal that emerged from the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee.

Also check ATA's media page for news on recent developments.