NIH to Begin Enforcing its Open Access Policy

With the publication of NOT-OD-12-160, the National Institutes of Health notified grant recipients that they will begin enforcing their public access policy in Spring, 2013 coincident with the final implementation of the use of the Research Performance Progress Report (RPRR) for SNAP and Fellowship awards. The NIH open access policy, announced in 2008, does not limit the journals in which award recipients publish their results, but does require that awardees to submit final peer-reviewed manuscripts that arise from NIH funds to the digital archive PubMedCentral upon acceptance for publication, to be made publicly available no later than 12 months after the official publication date.

Effective Spring 2013, NIH will delay processing of non-competing continuation awards if publications arising from that award are not in compliance with the NIH public access policy. This past Summer, NIH enhanced My NCBI, which is the tool through which researchers process their publications to be in compliance with the open access policy, adding features and streamlining functionality to make it easier to use.

Researchers submitting progress reports using the RPPR will find that its publication section is automatically populated with the PD/PIs publications from My NCBI and s/he needs only to check off the publications that are associated with that particular progress report. Grantees submitting paper 2590 progress reports will need to provide a My NCBI-generated PDF list of publications as part of their progress report.

Open access is certainly a buzz word in science circles today. The goal of open access proponents generally is to ensure that access to scientific literature is broadly available at low or no cost. We hear it from funding agencies like the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as well as the United Kingdom’s Research Councils, IrelandAustralia, and the European Commission is moving to improve open access. Major non-governmental sponsors such as the Wellcome Trust, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and the Max Planck Society have incorporated open access policies into their funding policies and these three organizations have joined together to form a new open access journal – eLife. eLife joins the ranks of PLOS, publisher of several open access journals, and others. The Directory of Open Access Journals is one resource for finding open access journals.

2012 marked the sixth year of Open Access Week. The Budapest Open Access Initiative celebrated its tenth anniversary this year. And, the Berlin 10 Open Access Conference was held in Stellenbosch, South Africa.

In March 2012, the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), reported for the Obama administration to congress on Interagency Public Access Coordination – A Report to Congress on the Coordination of Policies Related to the Dissemination and Long-Term Stewardship of the Results of Federally Funded Scientific Research. OSTP notes in its report that since the inception of the NIH open access policy in 2008, over 260,000 papers have been submitted and are publicly available via PubMed Central, which contains over 2.4 million articles overall. Compliance with NIH’s open access policy stands at approximately 75%. Linking compliance with its open access policy to non-competing continuation awards should increase the compliance rate significantly. The National Science foundation (NSF) has taken an alternative approval to ensuring that research outcomes are available to the public in a timely manner by implementing a Project Outcomes Report (POR) requirement. The POR is a report written by the principal investigator of NSF-funded research specifically for public consumption. These reports are made available through Research.gov.

The Department of Energy (DOE) provides access to technical reports resulting from research at national laboratories as well as grantees via portals such as the DOE Information Bridge, which hosts nearly 300,000 reports. DOE also provides access to meta-data on roughly 10,000 scholarly publications annually, about 15% of which are fully available via public access. DOE also manages Science.gov, which provides access to 50 databases and over 200 million pages of R&D information across 14 federal agencies  including NIH’s PubMed, AGRICOLA and other important resources.

Clearly the tide of open access to publicly funded research data is still rising. NIH is taking its next step to move toward full compliance with its open access policy and governments, foundations and publishers around the world working to support the broad goals of the open access movement.