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NIH Policy on Enhancing Public Access to Archived Publications Resulting from NIH-Funded Research

The National Institutes of Health has announced a new policy for providing free access to the scientific literature that draws on research it has supported. The policy applies to all research grant and career development award mechanisms, cooperative agreements, contracts, institutional and individual National Research Service Awards, as well as NIH intramural research programs.

Commencing on May 2, 2008, NIH requests (but does not require) investigators to submit an electronic version of any final manuscript accepted for publication, and deriving in whole or in part from research supported by the Institutes, to the National Library of Medicine’s PubMed Central (PMC). The policy defines “final manuscript” as the final version accepted for journal publication, incorporating all modifications resulting from the publisher’s peer review process. It does not apply to book chapters, editorials, reviews or conference proceedings.

The purpose of the new policy, according to NIH, is threefold: -to create a stable archive of peer-reviewed research publications; -to secure a searchable compendium of such publications that NIH and awardees can use to manage their research portfolios and monitor scientific productivity (and ultimately help NIH to set research priorities); and -to make the published results of NIH-funded research readily accessible to the public, health care providers, educators and scientists.

Though some critics remain skeptical, NIH claims that the PMC technology is such that it will accept submissions in almost any format and convert them into a single, explicit and well-specified data format, which will be compatible with, and linked to, other National Library of Medicine databases such as DNA and protein sequences, protein structures, clinical trials, small molecules and taxonomy. Investigators will log onto a secure Web site and deposit their manuscript, receive a PDF version to verify that all content has been received before it is converted to a standardized digital format in XML, and preview the PMC version before it is posted. The progress and operational parameters of this process will be overseen by a Public Access Advisory Working Group, as yet to be appointed.

NIH has made several concessions to those commenting on the policy as it was originally proposed. Not only is compliance with the policy in general entirely voluntary, but investigators will be allowed during submission to specify the actual timing of the posting for public access (any time from immediately to 12 months after the official date for publication in a journal). An incentive is that such posting will be treated by NIH as an alternate means for investigators to meet the current requirement to supply copies of any resulting publications with their grant progress report.

Click here for the full text of the final policy and NIH’s response to public comment on the proposed version, along with related information and instructions.

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