Washington, D.C. - July 20, 2007 - In what advocates hailed as a major advance for scientific communication, the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday approved a measure directing the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to provide free public online access to agency-funded research findings within 12 months of their publication in a peer-reviewed journal. With broad bipartisan support, the House passed the provision as part of the FY2008 Labor, HHS, and Education Appropriations Bill.
"The House has affirmed the principle that broad sharing of publicly funded research findings on the Internet is an essential component of our nation's investment in science," said Heather Joseph, Executive Director of SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition), and a leader of the Alliance for Taxpayer Access (ATA). "This action paves the way for all scientists and citizens to access, use, and benefit from the results of publicly funded biomedical research."
"We're pleased by Congress's recognition of the fundamental rationale for public access - that better-informed patients, clinicians, and researchers will mean better health outcomes," said Sharon Terry, President of the Genetic Alliance and an ATA activist. "The time has come to sweep away unnecessary barriers to understanding and treating disease. The Genetic Alliance thanks and congratulates the House of Representatives for taking this vital step."
The current NIH Public Access Policy, implemented in 2005 as a voluntary measure, has resulted in the deposit of less than 5% of eligible research by individual investigators.
In a recent letter to Congress, 26 Nobel Laureates called for enactment of mandatory NIH public access, noting that, "requiring compliance is not a punitive measure, but rather a simple step to ensure that everyone, including scientists themselves, will reap the benefits that public access can provide. We have seen this amply demonstrated in other innovative efforts within the NIH - most notably with the database that contains the outcome of the Human Genome Project."
"The coalition of support for the NIH policy is extremely broad," added Joseph. "This critical step was achieved as a result of the vision and collective effort of patient groups, scientists, researchers, publishers, students, and consumers who registered their support."
A similar measure has been approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee and will be considered by the full Senate later this summer.
The Alliance for Taxpayer Access is a coalition of patient, academic, research, and publishing organizations that supports open public access to the results of federally funded research. The Alliance was formed in 2004 to urge that peer-reviewed articles stemming from taxpayer-funded research become fully accessible and available online at no extra cost to the American public. Details on the ATA may be found at http://www.