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Victory for Open Access!

Yesterday, President Bush signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2007 (H.R. 2764) which, among else, mandates the repository of all NIH-funded research into PubMedCentral within at most 12 months after publication.

Until now, the placement of NIH-funded research papers into publicly accessible repositories was not mandated, but recommended. However, only about 5% of the authors actually did it, as the process was complex and not always clear. This number is growing, but far too slowly. From now on, authors will have clear guidelines and assistance in making sure that all the research becomes public a year after publication in a scholarly journal.

As you may recall, the original version of the bill was vetoed by President Bush. However, the language of the Open Access provision remained intact throughout the process, with no resistance from the Administration. This did not happen easily and the good people of SPARC and the Alliance for Taxpayer Access (as well as NIH itself) are to be commended for their tireless efforts in educating the Congress about the issue and congratulated for the success.

There has been opposition to this provision of the law mounted by some of the giant publishing houses. They hastily put together PRISM, an astroturf organization designed to lobby the Congressmen against this provision. However, they overreached, and the alert blogosphere caught their dishonesty as well as their breach of the copyright law. The information spread virally across the internet and was seen by hundreds of thousands of people. The outcry by the concerned citizens who, by the thousands, contacted their Representatives, effectively neutralized the efforts of the opponents and the Open Access language sailed through the two full rounds of the legislative process unscathed.

There has been quite a lot of celebration on science blogs today so, as I often do, I will post links to some of them here:

Peter Suber was the first to blog the announcement and the press release by The Alliance for Taxpayer Access. He is also tracking the online responses.

Jonathan Eisen is giddy with excitement.

Glyn Moody predicts that this will have a “knock-on effect around the world, as open access to publicly-funded research starts to become the norm.”

Peter Murray-Rust expects that having the papers Open will uncover new science as the data are mined by robots.

John Gordon wonders if Bush is even aware of what he signed and jokes about the Alliance for Taxpayer Access for having a “diabollically clever name” 😉

Leslie Johnston reminds everyone there is no need to wait exactly 12 months to deposit the papers.

Charles Bailey, Klaus Graf, Paula Kaufman, Oliver Obst, Dorothea Salo and David join in the celebratory mood.

There is also a long comment thread on Slashdot, the site that spread the word about the copyright infringment by PRISM.

Brandon Keim on the WIRED Science Blog also mentions the dubious tactics of the opposition.

Rich is a student happy that he will be able to read the articles from now on.

Marshall Kirkpatrick also sees how this will open up a whole new world for scientific research.

Kevin Smith is thinking about the ways librarians can help.

Georgia Harper is a step ahead of everyone else, suggesting the mechanisms for making the transition smooth.

Richard Akerman provides the appropriate movie clip.

Mark Patterson:

One of the most effective ways to comply with this new requirement is for researchers to publish their work in fully open access journals such as those of PLoS. As part of the service we provide to authors, we deposit every article in PubMed Central so that it can be a part of this evolving and important online archive. And this happens as soon as the article is published – so that anyone with an interest in the work can immediately read it and build on it.

Peter Suber collected even more blogospheric responses.


  1. #1 revere
    December 27, 2007

    But what’s the enforcement? I couldn’t find this in the PR stuff. Do you Know?

  2. #2 John
    December 27, 2007

    Great news!

  3. #3 Coturnix
    December 27, 2007

    Revere: not yet, but am looking into it.

  4. #4 Blake Stacey
    December 27, 2007

    Comment left at my blog:

    How would appointees of a President Huckabee or Richardson administer this archive?

    It might make sense to recommend that the papers be put into several private archives as well in order to prevent any funny business with the government archive.

    To which my first, instinctive response was — “President Richardson?” But, anyway, thoughts and observations are welcome. . . .

  5. #5 Coturnix
    December 27, 2007

    Open Access Journals
    It’ll get there, this is the first step.

  6. #6 Barn Owl
    December 29, 2007

    This is great news. For journal clubs and advanced topics classes with grad students, I like to chose a “classic” paper, and compare it with a very recent paper that’s similar in subject. I think I’ll find a paper from an Open Access journal, to match some classic papers on cancer biology, for the next such class; open access issues and implications are worth discussing in this context, I think.

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