Can publishers and NIH make OA work?

The April 7 deadline is rapidly approaching for submitting all publications based on NIH-funded work to PubMed Central. But some publishers are still grumbling about how the NIH plans to implement the public access mandate, which was put in place in linkurl:January.;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/54028/ linkurl:Last month,;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/54372/ Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter asked NIH director Elias Zerhouni in a letter whether the NIH had adequately di

By | March 7, 2008

The April 7 deadline is rapidly approaching for submitting all publications based on NIH-funded work to PubMed Central. But some publishers are still grumbling about how the NIH plans to implement the public access mandate, which was put in place in linkurl:January.;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/54028/ linkurl:Last month,;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/54372/ Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter asked NIH director Elias Zerhouni in a letter whether the NIH had adequately discussed particulars of the mandate with publishers before implementing it. I called up Glen Ruskin, director of governmental and legislative affairs at the linkurl:American Chemical Society;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/home/53719/ (ACS), to find out what exactly publishers objected to in the mandate. Since the January 11 announcement, the ACS has not communicated to the NIH directly about its reservations over the mandate, Ruskin said. That will happen at a meeting in the coming weeks, at which the ACS will join other publishers to discuss with the NIH some of the particulars of the mandate. The ACS has been vocal about its reservations over the mandate and last year lobbied in Congress to keep submission to PubMed Central voluntary. Ruskin told me that when the mandate passed on January 11, the ACS sent a letter to the NIH requesting the agency to hold an open forum for comments and suggestions from the publishing community before implementing the mandate, as they had in 2004 when they held a rulemaking session for the voluntary submission system. But that same day, the NIH announced the implementation. Ruskin said that ACS's biggest problem with the mandate is some of the formatting issues involved in putting articles into PubMed Central. The NIH wants all references in submitted articles to be linked to other articles in PubMed Central, and for the article to appear as much as possible like the print version, including images or other publications not in PubMed Central. The ACS feels that this "could replicate what would be the published article out on a journal's Web page," said Ruskin. "It could represent a violation of intellectual property or copyright." As of May 25, all PubMed Central articles must include PubMed Central reference numbers for other papers cited in that publication that are in the PubMed database. I called the NIH to ask whether these formatting changes might violate copyright law. Agency officials weren't available to comment for my article before the deadline, but the communications office forwarded a statement from Norka Ruiz Bravo, NIH Deputy Director for Extramural Research, which said, "NIH is using the same system to support the Public Access requirement that it has been using for over two years to support the voluntary Public Access Policy. We are confident in our system's ability to support increased submission volume." Other publishing groups, such as Reed Elsevier, have opposed the new mandate. A spokesperson at Elsevier said the company declined to comment. But Allan Adler, vice president of legal and government affairs for the Association of American Publishers (AAP), echoed the ACS's reservations in January when he linkurl:issued;http://www.the-scientist.com/templates/trackable/display/blog.jsp?type=blog&id=54088&o_url=blog/display/54088 a statement saying that the mandate -- and submission into PubMed Central -- undermines publishers' abilities to exercise copyrights. Ruskin said that the burden will be put on the researchers themselves, who must do additional work to submit their articles to PubMed Central and only work with journals who abide by the NIH mandate. In response to rumors that the ACS might pursue legal action over intellectual property or copyright violations, Ruskin said, "I feel comfortable saying that I don't see us part of any legal litigation suing the NIH" over public access policy.
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