On March 17, 2008, the Alliance for Taxpayer Access responded to the NIH call for comments held in conjunction with a public meeting to be held on the NIH Public Access Policy, March 20. A copy of the Alliance's comments follows:
Subject: Taxpayers remain committed to the success of the NIH mandate and its swift implementation
Submitted by: Heather Joseph, on behalf of the Alliance for Taxpayer Access
The Alliance for Taxpayer Access (ATA) commends the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for moving forward with the timely implementation of its Public Access Policy. We strongly believe that it is the right of all citizens to have free and timely access to the results of our collective $28 billion annual investment in the critical biomedical research funded by the NIH.
The Alliance -- a coalition of more than 80 research organizations, libraries, patient groups and consumer advocates -- believes that the NIH Public Access Policy will facilitate the ability of researchers, physicians, clinicians, health care professionals and other members of the public to access, share, and use the results of this research. Faster and wider sharing of NIH-funded research will enable scientists to build upon it more quickly, accelerating the pace of discovery and speeding the translation of this knowledge into public benefits. This will have a profound effect on the advancement of scientific research and the improvement of public health.
The Alliance is pleased that the NIH has published implementation guidelines in a timely fashion, and our member organizations are actively working to raise awareness of the policy to ensure effective compliance within the communities we represent. Our organizations have also been developing and promoting mechanisms to help researchers prepare for manuscript deposit as well as to ensure they retain the necessary rights to comply with the policy, in accordance with current copyright law.
We are particularly pleased to note the growing list of over 300 journals (listed on the PubMed Central Web site) that have indicated their willingness to support the policy by facilitating the deposit of manuscripts -- and, in some cases, final published articles -- on behalf of NIH-funded researchers.
We believe the terms of the new NIH Public Access Policy reflect a reasonable balance of stakeholder interests with one exception: the Alliance urges the NIH to shorten the maximum time frame for this material to be embargoed from 12 months to six. A six-month embargo -- which has already been adopted by biomedical funders in Canada, the U.K., and the European Union -- better reflects the rapid pace of discovery in biomedical science and more effectively addresses the public’s pressing need for access to this publicly funded information.