Bill to Require NIH to Publish Research Online

The Senate Appropriations Committee has included language in a spending bill that would require the National Institutes of Health to make federally funded research available to anyone on the Internet.

According to the June 27 report for the fiscal 2008 appropriations bill (S.1710), which includes the Department of Health and Human Services, all "investigators who are funded by the NIH" must "submit an electronic version" of their final peer-reviewed manuscripts, which must "be made publicly available" as soon as possible on PubMed Central. The manuscript must be published on the Web site no later than 12 months after the official date of publication.

The committee highly encourages collaborations with journal publishers that would enable them to deposit manuscripts on behalf of the funded investigators, if all parties agree. The committee directs the NIH to seek and carefully take into account the advice of journal publishers on the implementation of this policy.

In particular, the committee directs the NIH to ensure that publishers' copyright protections are maintained. The committee also directs the NIH to provide a report by April 1, 2008, on the status of the program, including how many manuscripts have been made publicly available through PubMed Central and how many have been deposited but not yet made publicly available. The report should also break down the amounts by the various submission methods, including author deposit, bulk deposit and the NIH portfolio.

Colleen Zak, executive director of the Autosomal Recessive Polycystic Kidney Disease and Congenital Hepatic Fibrosis Alliance, said in a statement that the language is "especially welcomed by the patient community. ... Delivering on the NIH public-access policy will create anticipated opportunities for accelerating research and finding cures."

Heather Joseph, executive director of the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, said that Congress understands the public's interest and there is real momentum to require NIH's publicly funded research to be made publicly available on the Internet.

A similar policy already exists, but it is voluntary, according to Joseph.