March 25, 2008

A Statement from the NIH Director, Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D., Welcoming Comments on the Implementation of the Public Access Policy

The National Institutes of Health held a public meeting on Thursday, March 20, 2008, for the purpose of hearing broad comment on the implementation to begin April 7, 2008 of the NIH Revised Policy on Enhancing Public Access to Archived Publications Resulting from NIH-Funded Research resulting from the Congressional Statute at Division G, Title II, Section 218 of PL 110-161 (Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008) that directed NIH to modify its current policy from voluntary to mandatory. The meeting was open to comment from NIH-funded researchers, representatives of universities and other NIH grantee organizations, publishers from commercial organizations and professional societies, journal editors, patients, public health advocates and the general public.

NIH is applying 21st-century technology to its investment in research, becoming more transparent and accountable, and ensuring that NIH and the Department of Health and Human Services can better promote the science and health benefits derived from NIH-funded research, Zerhouni explained.

"We believe that public access after a reasonable embargo period of up to a year to research funded by NIH will help advance science and improve human health while preserving peer review and the value of scientific publishing," said NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D. He explained that the improved access will be a "dynamic resource to not only research publications and display publications, but to link them to all sorts of knowledge that NIH has invested in making research more efficient for all scientists."

The meeting was held to ensure the policy's implementation will work as successfully as possible for all involved. "We are all ears," Zerhouni told the audience. "We need to move forward and we are completely open to an interactive process here that will take into account all input."

NIH established a voluntary public access policy in 2005, but only a small percentage of the manuscripts submitted were deposited under that policy. If the policy remained voluntary, Zerhouni said, about new 64,000 journal articles arising from NIH funds would not be available to the public each year. The revised policy implements PL 110-161 that requires that all NIH-funded investigators submit to the National Library of Medicine's PubMed Central an electronic version of their final, peer-reviewed manuscripts upon acceptance for publication to be made publicly available no later than 12 months after the official publication date.

The meeting was a listening session, and supported by 451 comments collected in advance of the meeting. Preliminary analysis indicates over 60% of these pre-meeting comments expressed support of the Policy as implemented, but approximately 15% thought the 12-month delay period was too long and 15% had concerns that a mandatory policy will be detrimental to scientific publishers.

At the meeting, 25 stakeholders volunteered to speak and Norka Ruiz Bravo, Ph.D., NIH Deputy Director for Extramural Research, closed the meeting with a preliminary analysis of the central themes discussed. These included how author and publisher copyrights would be managed, the speed of the implementation, the impacts of the policy on publishers, science and health, the versions of articles collected, the efficacy of NIH's instructions, and the length of the delay period. Ruiz Bravo said that all of these comments would be analyzed further and urged participants to understand that "NIH is committed to making this policy a success for all concerned and we want to work with all of you to get that done."

The public may view the video cast and pre-meeting comments at:
NIH is also planning a Request for Information (RFI), to be announced in the Federal Register, asking for comments on the policy's implementation. NIH's report on the meeting, pre-meeting comments and the RFI will be issued by September 30, 2008.

The policy and supporting materials can be found at:

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation's Medical Research Agency — includes 27 Institutes and Centers and 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 it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit