From SPARC e-News (http://www.arl.org/sparc):
The Washington Post reported on Jan. 18 that a proposal to make the results of federally funded biomedical research available to the public for free “has been scaled back by the National Institutes of Health under pressure from scientific publishers, who argued that the plan would eat into their profits and harm the scientific enterprise.”
NIH’s official announcement of the policy, originally slated for January 11, was scrubbed at the last minute to prevent it from coming up during confirmation hearings for Michael Leavitt, President Bush's nominee to head the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, of which NIH is a part. However, details of the public access policy were quickly disclosed in various news accounts.
The revised NIH plan reportedly abandons the six-month embargo on public access in favor of a scheme under which the embargo duration would be left up to NIH investigators, with a maximum of one year. That change has angered many advocates of public access, who have argued that a year is too long and that NIH has abdicated its responsibility to taxpayers.
“At a time when there is widening pressure for greater public transparency at NIH,” SPARC Director Rick Johnson wrote in a message to SPARC members, “it is vital that the agency take bold steps to dramatically expand access to NIH research.” SPARC has called for the policy be changed to no more than a six-month cap and urged that NIH provide strong signals to grantees about its expectation that research should be available to the public as soon as possible.
The Alliance for Taxpayer Access has publicly released its January 11 letter to Dr. Elias Zerhouni expressing disappointment at the delay in the announcement of the NIH public-access plan. For further information: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2005-01/wc-aft011305.php.
SPARC encourages those interested in this issue to communicate their views to Michael Leavitt, Secretary of Health and Human Services, 200 Independence Ave., S.W., Room 615-F, Washington, DC 20201. Fax 202-690-7203.
Public announcement of the NIH policy could come as early as this week.