Open access recall?

A new bill seeks to undo the NIH mandate requiring federally-funded research papers to be made publicly available within 12 months of acceptance for publication. In a hearing yesterday (September 11) the US House Committee on the Judiciary considered whether the mandate violates publishers' copyright. The committee's chairman, John Conyers (D-Mich), sponsored the bill, linkurl:HR6845, titled the Fair Copyright in Research Works Act,;http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c110:H.R.6845: which wo

Sep 12, 2008
Andrea Gawrylewski
A new bill seeks to undo the NIH mandate requiring federally-funded research papers to be made publicly available within 12 months of acceptance for publication. In a hearing yesterday (September 11) the US House Committee on the Judiciary considered whether the mandate violates publishers' copyright. The committee's chairman, John Conyers (D-Mich), sponsored the bill, linkurl:HR6845, titled the Fair Copyright in Research Works Act,;http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c110:H.R.6845: which would prohibit federal agencies from requiring a transfer of copyright license for the paper resulting from federal funds. Under the current mandate, researchers give the NIH a non-exclusive license so that manuscripts can be deposited in PubMed Central. Without such a copyright license, the agency can't deposit final manuscripts into the PubMed database and all copyright is maintained, in most cases, by the publisher. The new legislation would "turn back the clock" by prohibiting the NIH from mandating public access as a condition of researchers receiving funding, according to an introductory statement by chairman of the subcommittee considering the issue, Howard Berman, Democratic representative from California. Since the mandate became law in April, submissions to PubMed Central have gone from about 2600 manuscripts per month to about 4000 manuscripts per month, according to the National Library of Medicine. And the compliance is approximately 56%. But linkurl:some publishers have opposed;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/54442/ the new mandate and pushed for the NIH to overturn its requirement. Four witnesses presented testimony yesterday: NIH director Elias Zerhouni, Ralph Oman, former US Register of Copyrights; Heather Joseph, director of Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC); and Martin Frank, executive director of the American Physiological Society, that publishes 14 journals. In their testimonies, Zerhouni and Joseph stressed that public access to biomedical research is essential to fully reap the rewards of investing tens of millions of federal tax dollars in research each year. In a particularly dramatic slide presented during his testimony Zerhouni showed the exponential pace of disease-linked gene discovery over the past three years based on the availability of literature in PubMed. "There is no evidence that the mandate damages" publishers' revenues, he said. Oman and Frank countered that when publishers lose their copyright, they lose the incentive to sponsor peer-review. "If publishers go out of business, we lose a valuable resource," said Oman. Frank noted that because the NIH requires final manuscripts to be deposited in PubMed, it essentially takes advantage of the "heavy lifting" that publishers have done to produce the manuscripts, by paying for the peer review process. While the hearing was relatively cordial, there was some minor mudslinging on the record: Joseph referred to the "heavy lifting" in publishing -- the cost of peer review -- as no more than the administrative costs of sending an email to peer-reviewers, and that peer review itself is free. Frank countered that of his $13 million budget to publish 14 journals, 20% is devoted to this "sending of emails." Congress adjourns later this month and is not expected to act on the bill before then.