On December 26, 2007, President Bush signed into law the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2008 (H.R. 2764), which includes a provision (Division G, Title II, General Provisions, Section 218) directing the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to strengthen its previously voluntary Public Access Policy from a request to a requirement. Here is what the law stipulates:
The Director of the National Institutes of Health shall require that all investigators funded by the NIH submit or have submitted for them to the National Library of Medicine's PubMed Central an electronic version of their final, peer-reviewed manuscripts upon acceptance for publication to be made publicly available no later than 12 months after the official date of publication: Provided, That the NIH shall implement the public access policy in a manner consistent with copyright law.
This means that all articles accepted for publication in scholarly journals that stem from research funded in whole or in part by awards from the NIH must be archived in PubMed Central (PMC)—approximately 65,000 peer-reviewed articles annually. Although there are several hundred journals automatically archived in PMC by publishers, the responsibility for ensuring deposit falls on the authors themselves. Fortunately, Carpenter Library links to several tools to help authors – or those persons designed to make PMC submissions on their behalf – navigate the publishing and depositing process.
Although this is the first instance of the U.S. Government mandating free public accessibility to research funded by a major agency, this is not the first mandate on the scene. The NIH mandate joins company with another 20 funder, 11 institutional and 3 departmental mandates, including those from the Wellcome Trust, 6 of 7 UK Research Councils, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
For further analysis of the NIH mandate victory, see the January issue of the SPARC Open Access Newsletter, and Gavin Baker’s response and predictions.
It will likely be some time before the NIH issues the new policy; in the meantime you can familiarize yourself with the deposit process by complying with the voluntary Public Access Policy. If you have questions or concerns, or would like to request a group presentation on the current Public Access Policy and PubMed Central, contact Molly Keener at 716-4203 or mkeener [at] wfubmc.edu.