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U.S. Senate Supports NIH Public Access Policy

Published Jul 2, 2005

Panel Requires NIH to Record and Post Statistics to Judge Effectiveness

July 2, 2005 (Washington, D.C.)-One month after the U.S. House of Representatives endorsed the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Public Access policy and called for measures to judge its effectiveness, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee followed suit yesterday with language requesting a prompt and thorough report evaluating the success of the policy.

"Alliance for Taxpayer Access members are committed to ensuring the implementation of a meaningful public access policy at NIH, and we are encouraged by this strong signal of support from Congress," said Heather Joseph, Executive Director of SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition), the founding alliance member. "We are gratified that Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee recognize the important purpose of the NIH public access policy: to speed scientific progress and serve the public. ATA will continue working with the Congressional leadership to ensure the policy's success."

The Senate report accompanying the Fiscal Year 2006 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations bill requests a report from NIH, to be submitted by February 2006, that will include the total number of applicable works submitted since the May 2 implementation date, as well as the embargo period selected by each submitting author.

"ATA believes that the NIH policy's success will be measured by the number of articles deposited in PubMed Central and made accessible to the public soon after publication," said Joseph. "ATA has consistently asked that the NIH provide statistics on the number of papers that are posted on NIH’s PubMed Central repository to help gauge the policy’s effectiveness. We are very pleased that both the Senate and House have requested this critical data from NIH. Moreover, we commend NIH Director Elias Zerhouni for his positive response [PDF] to ATA’s request to post these critical submission data on the NIH public access website."

Data recently released by NIH indicate that the number of submissions since the policy's implementation in early May is very low. Based on annual data, NIH funding is responsible for about 65,000 scholarly articles a year. Therefore, NIH grantees could have chosen to place approximately 11,000 articles on PubMed Central-making this taxpayer-funded research available free to the public. However, statistics provided by NIH this week show that only three percent of this number, or 340 articles accepted for publication, have been submitted by NIH grantees.

Sharon F. Terry, President of the Genetic Alliance and a member of the Public Access Working Group advising the NIH, commented that "If we were a venture capital company investing in a new business, and we saw early performance returns at the rate of three percent, we would not wait to re-examine our strategy."

The ATA remains a strong advocate for immediate open access to research funded by the NIH.

posted: 07.15.05

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