NIH expands digital archive

Policy on Enhancing Public Access to Archived Publications Resulting from NIH-Funded Research

Related Links

PubMed Central site

A new policy asks scientists who receive research funds from the National Institutes of Health to voluntarily submit copies of their peer-reviewed research manuscripts to a digital archive at the National Library of Medicine. Manuscripts will be made available free to the public within a year after the research is published in a scientific journal.

In crafting the final policy, which will take effect May 2, NIH officials said they tried to balance public interest in free access to taxpayer-funded research with the commercial interests of publishers who disseminate health and medical information.

Elias Zerhouni, NIH’s director, addressed publishers’ concerns by allowing more flexibility for submitting articles to the online archive known as PubMed Central. However, other questions remain unanswered, said Allan Adler, vice president for legal and governmental affairs at the Association of American Publishers. How the new policy will affect for-profit and nonprofit publishers or the peer-review process is uncertain, he said.

Critics say the open-access movement may force researchers to pay to have their articles published in professional journals because free digital archives will undermine the financial basis of medical and scientific publishing.

But supporters of open access say NIH officials should have made the submission policy mandatory. “We think NIH certainly grasped the importance and rationale for taxpayer access to NIH-funded research,” said Rick Johnson, director of the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition. However, he said the policy’s execution could have been handled better.

“The unfortunate thing is that scientists have been put in the middle here,” he said. “We believe that NIH had the responsibility and the authority to call upon all NIH grantees to deposit their research articles.”

Patrice McDermott, deputy director of the American Library Association’s Office of Government Relations, expressed similar disappointment with the final policy for making researchers’ participation voluntary. “We think it’s a move back from what NIH initially agreed to,” she said.

In a draft policy released for public comment last September, NIH officials said all researchers who receive public funding would be required to make their results available free to the public via PubMed Central no later than six months after their research was published in a professional journal. The agency received more than 6,000 public comments on that proposal.

Publishers complained that the policy would give them little time to recoup their costs because many people and institutions would forgo buying expensive journal subscriptions if they knew that the same information would be available free online within six months.

PubMed Central, launched in February 2000, is a permanent and searchable electronic repository of health and medical information. In the past, it served as an archive for publishers willing to make back issues of their journals available through the repository. Now, it has been expanded into an archive for NIH-funded research.

A statement released by Zerhouni’s office states that “in developing this policy, we made a concerted effort to balance the importance of this archive to NIH’s public health mission with the need to provide flexibility for authors, their institutions and publishers in those cases where immediate release is not possible.”

FCW in Print

In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.


  • Shutterstock image: looking for code.

    How DOD embraced bug bounties -- and how your agency can, too

    Hack the Pentagon proved to Defense Department officials that outside hackers can be assets, not adversaries.

  • Shutterstock image: cyber defense.

    Why PPD-41 is evolutionary, not revolutionary

    Government cybersecurity officials say the presidential policy directive codifies cyber incident response protocols but doesn't radically change what's been in practice in recent years.

  • Anne Rung -- Commerce Department Photo

    Exit interview with Anne Rung

    The government's departing top acquisition official said she leaves behind a solid foundation on which to build more effective and efficient federal IT.

  • Charles Phalen

    Administration appoints first head of NBIB

    The National Background Investigations Bureau announced the appointment of its first director as the agency prepares to take over processing government background checks.

  • Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.)

    Senator: Rigid hiring process pushes millennials from federal work

    Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said agencies are missing out on younger workers because of the government's rigidity, particularly its protracted hiring process.

  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1987, FCW has covered it all -- the major contracts, the disruptive technologies, the picayune scandals and the many, many people who make federal IT function. Here's a look back at six of the most significant stories.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group