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Major NIH Legislation Addresses Public Access

Published Sep 27, 2006

For immediate release
September 27, 2006

Contact:
Jennifer Heffelfinger
jennifer@arl.org
(202) 296-2296 ext. 121

Major NIH Legislation Addresses Public Access
Energy & Commerce Chairman Barton, Representative Doyle Pledge Oversight

WASHINGTON, DC – September 27, 2006 – 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 NIH Reauthorization Bill, authored by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton, passed the House of Representatives on Tuesday, September 26.

"We're pleased that the House committee responsible for overseeing NIH included report language addressing the existing Public Access Policy, and indicated it will be paying close attention to the policy's ongoing performance,” said Heather Joseph, Executive Director of SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) and spokesperson for the Alliance for Taxpayer Access (ATA).

The importance of the public access policy was also brought into focus at last week's markup of the bill, when Congressman Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania echoed concerns about the meager participation rate – less than five percent – under the current voluntary policy.

"There's just no better way to put it – it's not right. The American taxpayer paid for this research – they'll pay nearly 30 billion dollars next year alone – and they are entitled to expect that publicly funded research is available to anyone who might use it to improve health conditions in the U.S. and around the world," Doyle said at the markup.

"We can find out what research NIH funds, what goes in – but there's no place to see what comes out of the billions we're investing. Public access gets us that transparency," Doyle added, touching on a key theme of the reauthorization bill.

Committee Chairman Joe Barton responded during markup, telling Doyle he shares many of his concerns regarding the function of the public access policy and pledging to work with the Congressman to implement reform measures.

The report language and committee exchange is the latest step forward for public access on Capitol Hill.  Earlier this year, the House Appropriations Committee approved language that would amend the existing NIH Public Access Policy so that deposit of articles would be mandatory for all NIH-funded researchers.

In addition, this past spring, Senators John Cornyn and Joe Lieberman introduced bipartisan legislation (Federal Research Public Access Act of 2006 – S.2695) to implement mandatory public access policies at all government departments and agencies that fund $100 million or more in extramural research each year.

Among the many supporters of the Cornyn/Lieberman bill are 125 provosts and presidents from colleges and universities throughout the country.

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The Alliance for Taxpayer Access is a coalition of patient, academic, research, and publishing entities that support open public access to the results of federally funded research, including passage of the Federal Research Public Access Act of 2006. 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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