Following a summer of pressure from Congress on the subject, and a series of meetings of NIH officials, publishers, advocacy groups, researchers, and librarians, the National Institutes of Health have issued a Notice on Enhanced Public Access to NIH Research Information, marking out an important new position in providing access to research literature funded by the government agency.
The notice states, "NIH intends to request that its grantees and supported Principal Investigators provide the NIH with electronic copies of all final version manuscripts upon acceptance for publication if the research was supported in whole or in part by NIH funding." The manuscripts will be housed in the National Library of Medicine's PubMed Central journal archive service. Open access journals such as those published by BioMedCentral, Public Library of Science, and many other titles already comply with the proposed NIH policy.
NIH currently funds over a quarter of the medical research performed worldwide. The agency's move is a response to the growing unavailability of the research literature to the scientific community, due in large part to rapid inflation over the past decade in the sci-tech publishing sector. The "Open Access" movement has emerged in response to the crisis, seeking publishing models that will provide more consistent access to the research literature to both researchers who produce and read the literature, and to the general public which funds much of the research through NIH, NSF, and other government agencies.
NIH has prepared a web site explaining its stance on public access to the literature: http://www.nih.gov/about/publicaccess/index.htm. The agency seeks comments on its policy proposal. Comments should be submitted by November 16, 2004.
PLoS launched its first journal, PLoS Biology, in October 2003. PLoS Medicine PLoS seeks to publish high-profile research articles in these two flagship journals, to compete in the top tier of publications in their respective fields. PLoS Medicine "aims to publish outstanding human studies that substantially enhance the understanding of human health and disease." After less than one year of publication, PLoS Biology recently increased its online publication schedule to a weekly release, one indication of a welcome reception with the biology research community.
The open access academic publishing movement has emerged as a response to rapidly increasing journal subscription prices, and inconsistent support of online journal access, by many commercial and society publishers. In an open access model, published literature is made freely available to the public, not only to institutions or individuals who can pay the costs of subscription, licensing, and account maintenance. Instead, costs of publication are paid for by authors (typically from research or institutional grants). The co-founders of PLoS, Michael B. Eisen, Patrick O. Brown, Harold E. Varmus, are including in the first issue a message stating their vision of open access with regard to medical journals, their view of who should pay for open access, and a call to authors to use open access journals.
Under PLoS’ open access model, “A complete version of the work and all supplemental materials…is deposited immediately upon initial publication in at least one online repository…that seeks to enable open access, unrestricted distribution, interoperability, and long-term archiving (for the biomedical sciences, PubMed Central is such a repository).” PLoS articles are published with the understanding that all users are free to copy, use, and distribute the article to others (so long as authorship is attributed).
The journal has prepared an FAQ with further details on their publishing model and the publication process. The University Libraries are an institutional member of Public Library of Science. As a membership benefit, authors from the U of M who publish in either PLoS journal will receive a 10% discount on publication charges.
Consistent with its open access policy, PLoS Medicine will be available online for free to the academic community and to the general public. The print form of the journal will also be available at the Bio-Medical and Veterinary Medical libraries.
On Thursday, October 21, The University Libraries will co-sponsor a presentation in the Health Informatics Seminar Series. Dr. Alexa McCray, Director of the National Center for Biomedical Communication, a division of the National Library of Medicine, will be speaking on "Mapping the Gene Ontology into the Unified Medical Language System." The seminar will be held in room 2-101 Basic Sciences and Biomedical Engineering at 3:15.
Dr. McCray's research interests include medical language interpretation and processing, digital libraries, and consumer health informatics. The Unified Medical Language System is an automated language processing system for health sciences topics. Its applications include forming part of the query processing system for the PubMed bibliographic information search service. The Gene Ontology is another controlled vocabulary system being developed for the biomolecular sciences, an attempt to bring order to wide variations in terminology which may be applied by scientists to very similar genes, gene products, and functions.
Some of Dr. McCray's work on the topic was recently reported in: Lomax, J. and McCray, A. Mapping the Gene Ontology into the Unified Medical Language System. Comparative and Functional Genomics 5(4): 354-361 (2004). Dr. McCray's presentation is a part of the University Libraries' celebration of National Medical Libraries Month.