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Key Advisory Group Reaffirms that NIH Public Access Policy Should be 6 Months and Mandatory

Published Apr 13, 2006

For immediate release
April 13, 2006

Contact: Jennifer Heffelfinger

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WASHINGTON, DC – A key advisory panel to the National Institutes of Heath (NIH) has reaffirmed its continued support for reforms to the NIH Public Access Policy.

At its meeting on April 10, the Public Access Working Group (PAWG) – a balanced panel of stakeholders appointed by NIH Director Elias Zerhouni to provide guidance on implementing a successful public access policy – reaffirmed its November 2005 recommendation that the policy be made mandatory and that all NIH-funded works must be made publicly available in PubMed Central within six months of publication.

The PAWG’s original recommendation was ratified in January by the National Library of Medicine's Board of Regents, which said in a letter to Dr. Zerhouni, "the NIH policy cannot achieve its stated goals unless deposit of manuscripts becomes mandatory."

"It's becoming quite clear that unless these much-needed changes are made, the board of regents' warning will hold true," said Heather Joseph of the Alliance for Taxpayer Access (ATA).  "We are very pleased that the PAWG has reaffirmed its original recommendations for a mandatory policy and a maximum six-month embargo period."

At the most recent PAWG meeting, representatives of the American Cancer Society, the New England Journal of Medicine, the American Society for Microbiology, and numerous other organizations voiced their continued support for a mandatory policy for NIH-funded investigators, with a six-month cap on withholding articles from public availability in NIH’s PubMed Central online archive.

The issue of public access was emphasized at a recent House Labor, HHS, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee hearing at which Congressman Ernest Istook (R-OK) asked Dr. Zerhouni what needed to be done to "stimulate" the NIH policy. In his answer, Dr. Zerhouni conceded that the poor participation rate of less than 4 percent (to date) indicates that  "voluntary is just not enough of an incentive."

"ATA looks forward to continuing to work with Dr. Zerhouni, Congress, and all stakeholders to ensure the public has timely access to the published results of research funded by our tax dollars," Joseph said.

The Alliance for Taxpayer Access is a coalition of stakeholders who support reforms that will make publicly funded research accessible to the public. Formed in 2004, the Alliance has played a leading role in the drive for free, timely access on the Internet to peer-reviewed articles funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health. It is administered on behalf of Alliance members by SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition). Information on the Alliance may be found at Alliance members are listed at

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