On Monday, the U.S. Senate voted to pass the FY2008 Labor, HHS, and Education Appropriations Bill (S.1710), including a provision that directs the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to strengthen its Public Access Policy by requiring rather than requesting participation by researchers.
The vote was a veto-proof 75-19. However, the House version of the bill passed with a smaller majority, so the Presidential veto is still possible (perhaps likely). Still, this a big step in the right direction, and important battle won. Moreover, the real battle over this bill resides in some other parts of it, i.e., the language on the NIH-mandated freeing of research remained intact throughout the process, making it more likely to survive into the future. Read the full press release.
The two drastic amendments by Sen. Inhofe were withdrawn at the last moment. Anyone who has read ‘Republican War On Science’ knows that Senator Inhofe is the leading Global Warming denialist in the Senate and thus, as Andrew Leonard notes, he has two reasons to oppose this bill. How? First, he wants to keep the science away from the public’s eye. This made him a perfect target for lobbying by the dinosaur publishers who have the same goal. Their large contributions to Inhofe are now giving him a second incentive to fight against Open Access.
While the complexity of Washington politics will make the final victory long in waiting (reconciling the House and Senate bills, Bush veto, trying to override it, potential court cases, etc.), the resounding victory in the Senate is a writing on the wall. Open Access is the future. And, as Stevan Harnad notes, and Peter Suber agrees, this is a perfect opportunity for institutions, particularly Universities, to start making all of their research available starting immediatelly. Every University, as part of its publicity pitch, mentions something about being modern and forward-looking. This is the time to show they really mean it.