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SPECIAL UPDATE: Congress Passes Spending Bill,
Comments on NIH Open Access Model

(Posted 11-30-04)


This update was originally sent out as an e-mail message to AGI's member societies.

IN A NUTSHELL: When the House of Representatives approved the Fiscal Year (FY) 2005 Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations bill in September, the Committee also issued a report. Therein members expressed support for a proposal by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to make the complete text of articles and supplemental materials generated by NIH-funded research freely and continuously available on PubMed Central (PMC), an online storehouse of life science articles, six months after the date of publication. The Senate did not address this issue in their version of NIH's spending plan. As such, the House and Senate needed to work out their differences on this issue prior to passing the final FY05 budget for NIH. Congress approved H.R. 4818, the Consolidated Appropriations Act for FY 2005 on Saturday, November 20th. Buried in the depths of this monumental piece of legislation were Congress' comments about the NIH open access model.

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The report, H. Rept. 108-792, stated the following:
"The conferees are aware of the draft NIH policy on increasing public access to NIH-funded research. Under this policy, NIH would request investigators to voluntarily submit electronically the final, peer reviewed author's copy of their scientific manuscripts; six months after the publisher's date of publication, NIH would make this copy publicly available through PubMed Central. The policy is intended to help ensure the permanent preservation of NIH-funded research and make it more readily accessible to scientists, physicians, and the public. The conferees note that the comment period for the draft policy ended November 16th; NIH is directed to give full and fair consideration to all comments before publishing its final policy. The conferees request NIH to provide the estimated costs of implementing this policy each year in its annual Justification of Estimates to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. In addition, the conferees direct NIH to continue to work with the publishers of scientific journals to maintain the integrity of the peer review system."

Some believe that the inclusion of this language indicates the appropriators' interest in becoming more involved with the proposal, understanding of potential cost implications, and interest in seeing the involvement of publishers of scientific journals. Others believe it simply reaffirms Congress and the Administration's intention to create an open-access archive of NIH-funded research. This is an idea coming to fruition. With this language, Congress directed NIH to give "full and fair consideration to all comments" and to publish a final policy. NIH will do so without ever answering the tough questions about the impact this model would have on scientists, non-profit scientific publishers, consumers, the peer-review process or the science on the record in a public forum.

Scientists standing at the crossroads of our profession - the intersection of the quest for knowledge and the dissemination thereof - need to remain engaged in this issue. We appreciate every individual and organization that provided comments to NIH and shared them with their Congressman and Senator. Please follow up with your Congressional Representatives during the holidays and ask them to schedule hearings on this issue early next year.

AGI will continue to monitor this issue and provide you with updates about public access to federally funded scientific research. Log on to http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/public_access.html for the latest information.

Special update prepared by Emily Lehr Wallace, AGI Government Affairs Program.

Sources: Thomas Legislative Database; Federal Register.

Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program.

Posted November 30, 2004


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