House panel wants free public access to medical research

Scientists would have 12 months to submit articles

A measure added to the House appropriations bill for the Department of Health and Human Services would ensure that most medical research funded by public tax dollars is readily available to the public. Open-access advocates, publishers and some members of the House Appropriations Committee, which approved the bill, heralded the provision as long overdue.

The provision requires scientists funded by the National Institutes of Health to submit copies of their peer-reviewed journal manuscripts to NIH’s online archive, known as PubMed Central. Those manuscripts would then be made available to the public for free on the PubMed Central Web site within a year of publication.

The full House and the Senate still must approve the provision, which would add weight to an NIH public access policy that has been in effect for a year. That policy asks NIH-funded scientists to submit their manuscripts voluntarily.

According to a January NIH report signed by NIH Director Elias Zerhouni and sent to the committee, the voluntary system had only shown a 4 percent compliance rate at that time. The problem was not lack of awareness, according to the report.

Last month, Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) introduced separate legislation that would require more sweeping reform. That bill directs agencies that fund more than $100 million in annual external research to publicly post electronic versions of peer-reviewed journal articles stemming from that research within six months after they appear in scientific journals.

The Cornyn-Lieberman legislation covers 11 agencies: the Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security and Transportation departments; the Environmental Protection Agency; NASA; and the National Science Foundation. This month’s bill requires only that authors submit their peer-reviewed manuscripts to NIH within a year after publication.

The Alliance for Taxpayer Access, a coalition of organizations that promotes greater access to publicly funded research, lauded the provision. Heather Joseph, executive director of ATA member group Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, said the optional approach would never work.

“With a voluntary policy, you just don’t get the compliance,” Joseph said. “With a mandatory twist put in there, we have a much greater chance of compliance.”

But ATA members say the 12-month time delay could hold up news about advances in medicine and prevent citizens from obtaining information they need about treatments.

“For individuals and families struggling to stay abreast of scientific developments and make informed decisions about their care and their lives, access to credible, reliable and current information is often the difference between life and death,” said Pat Furlong, founding president and chief executive officer of ATA member organization Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy, in a statement. “However, the 12-month delay is too long for us to wait. As the bill moves forward, we urge members of both House and Senate committees to consider adopting a six-month embargo, if not immediate access.”

Most House lawmakers and many journal publishers seem pleased with the Appropriations Committee’s provision.

House Appropriations Committee spokesman John Scofield said the full House will likely approve the measure.

“There’s really nobody against this,” he said. “The bottom line is taxpayers pay for this research. They should be able to review it.”

Law to make research findings open to public not a sure thing

A measure designed to force publicly funded medical researchers to make their peer-reviewed articles available to the public at no cost still has several steps to complete before becoming law.

The provision was passed by the House Appropriations Committee as part of a larger appropriations bill. It still must pass the full House, and the Senate must also approve it.

The Senate is expected to vote on its Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations bill later this summer. Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee have not drafted provisions about research access.

Senate Appropriations Committee staff members say senators have been earnestly debating whether to make the policy mandatory or voluntary.

— Aliya Sternstein

The Fed 100

Save the date for 28th annual Federal 100 Awards Gala.

Featured

  • computer network

    How Einstein changes the way government does business

    The Department of Commerce is revising its confidentiality agreement for statistical data survey respondents to reflect the fact that the Department of Homeland Security could see some of that data if it is captured by the Einstein system.

  • Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Army photo by Monica King. Jan. 26, 2017.

    Mattis mulls consolidation in IT, cyber

    In a Feb. 17 memo, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told senior leadership to establish teams to look for duplication across the armed services in business operations, including in IT and cybersecurity.

  • Image from Shutterstock.com

    DHS vague on rules for election aid, say states

    State election officials had more questions than answers after a Department of Homeland Security presentation on the designation of election systems as critical U.S. infrastructure.

  • Org Chart Stock Art - Shutterstock

    How the hiring freeze targets millennials

    The government desperately needs younger talent to replace an aging workforce, and experts say that a freeze on hiring doesn't help.

  • Shutterstock image: healthcare digital interface.

    VA moves ahead with homegrown scheduling IT

    The Department of Veterans Affairs will test an internally developed scheduling module at primary care sites nationwide to see if it's ready to service the entire agency.

  • Shutterstock images (honglouwawa & 0beron): Bitcoin image overlay replaced with a dollar sign on a hardware circuit.

    MGT Act poised for a comeback

    After missing in the last Congress, drafters of a bill to encourage cloud adoption are looking for a new plan.

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