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Congressional Panel Favors Access to Publicly Funded Research

Published Jun 28, 2007

For immediate release
June 28, 2007

Contact:
Jennifer McLennan
jennifer [at] arl [dot] org
(202) 296-2296 ext. 121

Congressional Panel Favors Access
to Publicly Funded Research

Washington, D.C. – June 28, 2007 – 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.

This milestone was immediately praised by the Alliance for Taxpayer Access (ATA), a coalition of patient groups, researchers, consumers, and libraries that has long called for such a step.

“The momentum is real and Congress understands the publics interest,” said Heather Joseph, Executive Director of SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, an ATA founding member). “We congratulate Senators Tom Harkin and Arlen Specter for their bipartisan leadership on this issue.”

“It is significant that Senate appropriators are determined to leverage the taxpayer investment in research by ensuring it can be broadly applied,” added Joseph. “Two years after the well-intentioned voluntary NIH policy was introduced, too many researchers, students, small businesses, and people facing diseases still lack access to the publicly funded research they want and need. This is a big step in the right direction.”

The Senates 2008 appropriations bill specifically requires that NIH-funded researchers deposit in the National Library of Medicines online archive an electronic copy of their peer-reviewed manuscripts upon acceptance for publication in a journal. Articles would become publicly available no later than 12 months after publication.

“Action by our Senators in supporting this change is especially welcomed by the patient community,” said Colleen Zak, Executive Director of the Autosomal Recessive Polycystic Kidney Disease and Congenital Hepatic Fibrosis (ARPKD/CHF) Alliance. “Delivering on the NIH public access policy will create anticipated opportunities for accelerating research and finding cures.”

Under the current NIH Public Access Policy, implemented in May 2005, investigators have deposited less than five percent of eligible manuscripts and, although a few publishers have also deposited articles stemming from NIH-funded research, the vast majority is not yet publicly available.

Congress has expressed concern about the voluntary policys failure to meet its goals. However, this is the first time the Senate committee has proposed legislative action to correct the situation. The Senate measure is similar to one recently put forth by the House of Representatives Labor/HHS Appropriations Subcommittee.

The FY08 Senate Appropriations Bill is expected to go before the full Senate for a vote later this summer. The House Labor/HHS Appropriations measure will be considered by the full House Appropriations Committee in July.

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The Alliance for Taxpayer Access is a coalition of patient, academic, research, and publishing organizations that support open public access to the results of federally funded research. The Alliance was formed in 2004 to urge that peer-reviewed articles stemming from taxpayer-funded research become fully accessible and available online at no extra cost to the American public. Details on the ATA may be found at http://www.taxpayeraccess.org.

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