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NIH Public Access Policy

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently announced its policy on enhancing public access to publications resulting from NIH-funded research. Beginning May 2, 2005, NIH-funded investigators are requested to submit to the National Library of Medicine’s PubMed Central an electronic version of the author’s final manuscript upon acceptance for publication. The author’s final manuscript is defined as the final version accepted for journal publication, and includes all modifications from the publishing peer review process.

Scientists and institutions that receive NIH support have received a notification letter about this policy from NIH Director Elias Zerhouni, and NIH has a Web site that provides questions, answers, and implementation details at The policy’s complete text was published in the NIH Guide to Grants and Contracts on February 3, 2005 along with extensive background information, such as anticipated impacts to peer review, the publishing industry, and research scientists. This is a revision of a controversial draft public access policy issued by NIH in 2004, which was enthusiastically supported by the Alliance for Taxpayer Access — an organization of taxpayers, researchers, patients, institutions, and library groups (including the Medical Library Association). Other groups raised concerns about the 2004 draft, and many of these responses are linked from the Association of American Publishers’ Open Access/NIH Initiative site.

The Medical Library Association sent a letter to Dr. Zerhouni on February 11, 2005, thanking him for his support of public access and calling this a “landmark policy.” While MLA has expressed disappointment that the final policy is a recommendation rather than a requirement—and has encouraged reconsideration of a required six-month release—the organization has pledged the support of its membership in implementing the NIH Public Access Policy. If you would like more details about the open access movement, visit the Open Access News site, where you’ll find background, updates, and links to free electronic newsletters and a discussion forum.

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