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NIH Office of the Director (OD)

Thursday, February 3, 2005

Don Ralbovsky
OD Office of Communications and Public Liaison

NIH Calls on Scientists to Speed Public Release of Research Publications
Online Archive Will Make Articles Accessible to the Public

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced today a new policy designed to accelerate the public's access to published articles resulting from NIH-funded research. The policy — the first of its kind for NIH — calls on scientists to release to the public manuscripts from research supported by NIH as soon as possible, and within 12 months of final publication.

These peer-reviewed, NIH-funded research publications will be available in a Web-based archive to be managed by the National Library of Medicine (NLM), a component of NIH. The online archive will increase the public's access to health-related publications at a time when demand for such information is on a steady rise.

"With the rapid growth in the public's use of the Internet, NIH must take a leadership role in making available to the public the research that we support," said NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D. "While this new policy is voluntary, we are strongly encouraging all NIH-supported researchers to release their published manuscripts as soon as possible for the benefit of the public. Scientists have a right to see the results of their work disseminated as quickly and broadly as possible, and NIH is committed to helping our scientists exercise this right. We urge publishers to work closely with authors in implementing this policy."

"In developing this policy, we made a concerted effort to balance the importance of this archive to NIH's public health mission, with the need to provide flexibility for authors, their institutions, and publishers in those cases where immediate release is not possible," Zerhouni added. "NIH recognizes the importance of preserving quality peer review and the viability of a diversity of publishing models. Nevertheless, we expect that only in limited cases will authors deem it necessary to select the longest delay period."

The NIH policy will achieve several important goals, including:

  1. creating a stable archive of peer-reviewed research publications resulting from NIH-funded studies to ensure the permanent preservation of these vital research findings;
  2. securing a searchable compendium of these research publications that NIH and its awardees can use to manage more efficiently and to understand better their research portfolios, monitor scientific productivity, and, ultimately, help set research priorities; and
  3. making published results of NIH-funded research more readily accessible to the public, health care providers, educators, and scientists.

Beginning May 2, 2005, the policy requests that NIH-funded scientists submit an electronic version of the author's final manuscript, upon acceptance for publication, resulting from research supported in whole or in part by NIH. 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.

The policy gives authors the flexibility to designate a specific time frame for public release — ranging from immediate public access after final publication to a 12 month delay — when they submit their manuscripts to NIH. Authors are strongly encouraged to exercise their right to specify that their articles will be publicly available through PubMed Central (PMC) as soon as possible.

PMC (http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov), a part of the NIH's National Library of Medicine (NLM), is the agency's digital repository of full-text, peer-reviewed biomedical, behavioral, and clinical research journals. It is a publicly-accessible, stable, permanent, and searchable electronic archive.

The release of this policy follows months of intensive deliberations with representatives of patient and scientific organizations, researchers, and publishers. NIH posted the draft policy for public comment in September, and received and reviewed over 6,000 public comments.

As part of on-going efforts to implement this new policy, NIH plans to establish a Public Access Advisory Working Group, as a subgroup of the NLM's Board of Regents. The Working Group will include representatives of the patient advocacy, scientific, library, and publishing communities, and will provide advice on implementation issues and assess progress in meeting the new policy's stated goals.

Additional information on the new policy and related documents, including a "Questions and Answers" fact sheet, can be found at: http://www.nih.gov/about/publicaccess/index.htm.

The NIH comprises the Office of the Director and 27 Institutes and Centers. The Office of the Director is the central office at NIH, and is responsible for setting policy for NIH and for planning, managing, and coordinating the programs and activities of all the NIH components. The NIH, the Nation's medical research agency, is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary Federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information, visit www.nih.gov.

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