The Scientific Activist

In my post earlier today, I stressed the need for the NIH to mandate open access to research publications supported by its funding:

As the largest supporter of biomedical research in the US, the NIH has a special obligation to make sure that its (taxpayer funded!) research is published in the public domain. Since May 2005, the NIH has had an optional open access program that revolves around PubMed Central. Specifically, the NIH “requests and strongly encourages all investigators to make their NIH-funded peer-reviewed, author’s final manuscript available to other researchers and the public through the NIH National Library of Medicine’s (NLM) PubMed Central (PMC) immediately after the final date of journal publication.” This, however, hasn’t gone so smoothly, and as I noted before, pervasive misunderstandings of the policy, noncompliance, and a general lack of participation have been observed. These problems seem to stem largely from the fact that providing an open access copy of research articles is not mandatory. A bill was introduced last year (S. 2695, the Federal Research Public Access Act of 2006) to require free public access to most government-funded research (including research funded by the NIH), but it did not progress through the Senate. Mandatory public access should be the policy for any publications stemming from NIH grants, whether or not it requires an act of Congress.

Well, sure enough, A Blog Around the Clock reports this afternoon that the House in fact approved such a measure yesterday. Here’s a portion of the press release from the Alliance for Taxpayer Access:

In what advocates hailed as a major advance for scientific communication, the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday approved a measure directing the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to provide free public online access to agency-funded research findings within 12 months of their publication in a peer-reviewed journal. With broad bipartisan support, the House passed the provision as part of the FY2008 Labor, HHS, and Education Appropriations Bill….

A similar measure has been approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee and will be considered by the full Senate later this summer.

This is great news. Such a bill was introduced in the Senate last year, but it never progressed. Hopefully it does better this time.