Washington Editor

Researchers financed with government money soon will be required to provide the National Institutes of Health copies of all final version manuscripts upon acceptance for publication in scientific or medical journals.

The NIH will make the manuscripts available six months after publication (or sooner if the publisher agrees) on PubMed Central (PMC), the institute's digital repository for biomedical research.

Manuscripts are defined as the author's version following modifications resulting from the peer-review process, a statement from the Bethesda, Md.-based NIH said. That proposal applies to research funded in whole or in part by the NIH. Specifically, it would include all research grants, cooperative agreements, contracts, as well as National Research Service Award fellowships.

Since it's a proposed policy change, the NIH will be accepting comments for 60 days. However, leaders in the medical community already are commenting.

Alan Leshner, executive publisher of Science, told BioWorld Today: "We are pleased that NIH has addressed some of the concerns of the publishers. The NIH proposal appears to be a reasonable compromise, although the required move to opening access to the public at six months - rather than, say, 12 months, the current AAAS/Science policy - could pose significant risk for some scientific societies. All non-profits share the goal of the widest possible dissemination of research results, but we also need to cover the costs and stay viable." (AAAS, or the American Society for the Advancement of Science, publishes Science.)

The institute believes the six-month delay in public archiving will not create financial burdens for the journals and scientific publications or the researchers. And at the request of publishers, manuscripts placed in the government archive will contain a link to the publisher's electronic database.

But Leshner added that many of the details related to the policy will need to be worked out going forward.

"For example, with the government permanently controlling the repository, we need to be sure that there will never be political interference or suppression of what is actually made accessible or released to the public," Leshner said. "History has many examples [of] politicians [having] strong views about what should and should not be studied or published."

Indeed, the NIH said it seeks to publish the information in order to ensure that scientific information arising from NIH-funded research is available in a timely fashion to other scientists, health care providers, students, teachers and the many millions of Americans searching the Internet to obtain credible health-related information. Comments should be directed to the NIH website: http://grants.nih.-gov/grants/guide/public_access/add.htm or to publicaccess@nih.gov.

The full proposal can be viewed on the Federal Register or the NIH website at www.nih.gov.

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