HHMI Announces New Open Access Mandate

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), a non-profit medical research organization that invests $700 million per year in research, has announced that it will require its investigators to publish their original research articles in scientific journals that allow the articles to be made freely accessible in a public repository within six months of publication.

Which Researchers are Covered by the New Policy?Â

The policy affects more than 300 HHMI researchers. These researchers are located not only at the HHMI’s Janelia Farm Research Campus in Virginia, but also at many universities (including MIT) and research organizations (such as the Massachusetts General Hospital) throughout the United States. Â

HHMI investigators are selected in a competitive process. Once selected, they are considered HHMI employees, but continue to be based at their home institutions and lead research from those institutions.

While the policy applies to HHMI investigators regardless of their physical location, it does not apply to HHMI grantees.  HHMI focuses its grant support on undergraduate educational efforts which do not directly relate to this publication policy.

When Does it Take Effect, and What if a Publisher Does Not Agree?

The policy applies to manuscripts submitted on or after January 1, 2008, for papers where an HHMI investigator is a major author. HHMI will require investigators to look for another publisher if a publisher will not allow open access on HHMI’s terms.

Where Does the Work Get Shared?

If the publication is in the biological or biomedical sciences, it must be made available through the National Library of Medicine’s open archive PubMed Central within six months of publication; for other disciplines, the policy states that comparable repositories should be used if available.

What’s New or Different About This Policy?

This mandate has several unusual aspects:

  • It’s the first open access mandate from a research funder in the United States. (The Wellcome Trust and others in the UK already have mandates; in the US, the NIH has a request that is not yet a requirement.)
  • HHMI will provide HHMI authors with a custom interface for uploading their manuscripts to PubMed Central for those journals who do not provide that service.
  • HHMI is working on arrangements with some publishers (e.g. Elsevier) to fund publisher charges involved in making the articles openly accessible.  (In other cases, investigators will be asked to use their operating budgets to pay any applicable charges.)

For More Information

More details are available at HHMI’s website , including a searchable database of journal titles and publishers indicating how the policies of 50 high-impact journals relate to the new mandate.

For more about what this means for scholarly publishing or for MIT authors, please contact copyright-lib@mit.edu.