Update on the NIH policyStrengthening the NIH policy is an ongoing story. Several important developments took place last month.
SPARC Open Access Newsletter, issue #95
March 2, 2006
by Peter Suber
* On November 15, 2005, the Public Access Working Group (PAWG), appointed by the agency to advise it on implementing and improving the policy, recommended that the request for public access be upgraded to a requirement and that the permissible delay be shortened from 12 months to 6 months. PAWG was responding to NIH data showing that fewer than 5% of NIH grantees were complying with the request for public access.
While this is old news, the PAWG minutes were only put online in mid-February.
I first covered the PAWG recommendations in SOAN for December 2, 2005.
* In early February 2006, the NIH sent a progress report to Congress (dated January 2006). Among other things it reported that the rate of compliance with its request for public-access was below 4%, that handling existing submissions under the policy cost the agency $1 million/year, and that handling submissions under a 100% compliance rate would cost the agency $3.5 million/year.
The NIH progress report to Congress, January 2006
Dorothea Salo, Spaghetti that didn't stick, Caveat Lector, February 16, 2006. A blog posting on the NIH progress report to Congress, focusing on the low compliance rate.
* On February 8, 2006, the NLM Board of Regents endorsed the November 2005 PAWG recommendations in a letter to NIH Director Elias Zerhouni.
The letter is not yet online but I blogged an excerpt on February 16, 2006.
NLM Board of Regents
What's important here is the momentum. Congress asked for a strong policy and NIH delivered a weak one. As evidence mounted that the NIH policy was not meeting its goals, one authoritative body after another asked NIH to strengthen the policy and live up to the original request from Congress. First the Public Access Working Group recommended a stronger policy. Then the NIH acknowledged the miserable compliance rate in a report to Congress. Then the NLM Board of Regents recommended a stronger policy. If the NIH is waiting for Congress to weigh in, then it's forgetting that Congress has already weighed in. Moreover, Congress is now considering Joe Lieberman's CURES bill, which would give the NIH an OA mandate, shorten the access embargo to six months, and extend this strong policy to other funding agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services.
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