Senate Approves Strengthened Open Access Mandate for NIH

Last night the US Senate approved the Appropriations Bill that strengthens the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) Public Access Policy,  requiring NIH-sponsored research to be made openly available on the internet without barriers to access.


The new language requires NIH-funded researchers to deposit copies of manuscripts into PubMed Central, the National Library of Medicine’s openly accessible archive, where they will be made available within 12 months of publication in a peer-reviewed journal.   (Existing language requests, rather than requires, this posting in PubMed Central, and has resulted in a deposit rate of less than 5% by investigators.)

The Senate’s action represents another key hurdle in the process of making publicly funded research publicly accessible.   Next, the language of the Senate bill (S.1710) has to be reconciled with similar language in a House Appropriations Bill.  This is expected to be worked out this fall.   The final consolidated bill will then have to pass the House and Senate before it goes to the President at the end of the year.

The Treasurer of the American Society for Cell Biology, Gary Ward, has responded to this Senate vote by saying that “We welcome the NIH policy being made mandatory, and thank Congress for backing this important step.  Free and timely public access to scientific literature is necessary to ensure that new discoveries are made as quickly as feasible. It’s the right thing to do, given that taxpayers funds this research.”  (The Alliance for Taxpayer Access’ press release offers the full context of this quote.)

More about the NIH Public Access Policy may be found on the Open Access Initiatives page of the Scholarly Publication Website.