NIH-Funded Research To Be Made Public Within 12 Months Under Anticipated Plan
Under new guidelines expected to be announced Thursday, NIH-funded research will be made public at no cost within 12 months of publication in a scientific journal, the Wall Street Journal reports. The proposal, anticipated by medical journal publishers and others, would "represent a softening" of an initiative that NIH Director Elias Zerhouni announced in September, which would require NIH-funded research be made public at no cost within six months of publication, according to the Journal (Wysocki, Wall Street Journal, 2/3).
Zerhouni's original proposal would mandate that federally funded researchers submit their papers to NIH after they have been accepted for publication and edited by a medical journal. The journals would be given six months to profit from the work, and the research would then be made available at no cost on NIH's Internet database, PubMed Central (California Healthline, 9/7/04).
Under current rules, scientific journals -- for which an annual subscription typically costs between $200 and $6,000 -- retain control over published information. Zerhouni has argued that the public should have access at no additional cost to research that has been funded by taxpayers. The anticipated NIH proposal has "added fuel" to the debate over open access to medical research, which many publishers say could harm the industry, the Journal reports.
Peter Banks, a publisher with the American Diabetes Association, said, "I don't have any details, but if NIH has gone to a 12-months delay, that would be better. It's more respectful of the need of nonprofit publishers to maintain subscription income" (Wall Street Journal, 2/3).
NPR's "Morning Edition" on Thursday reported on NIH's plan. The segment includes comments from Martin Frank, executive director of the American Physiological Society, and Sharon Terry, president and CEO of the Genetic Alliance (Malakoff, "Morning Edition," NPR, 2/3). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
In other agency news, many NIH employees on Wednesday in a meeting with Zerhouni argued that ethics guidelines announced this week, which will limit employees' stock ownership and prohibit most outside consulting activities, are "unjustifiably extreme," the Washington Post reports. Employees expressed anger that limits on stock holdings apply to "[e]ven low-ranking employees with no influence on grants or policies," the Post reports.
Others noted that many employees will be required to divest health-related stock holdings within 90 days, while the industry "is at the bottom of a cycle." Employees also questioned why the guidelines applied only to NIH employees and not other federal departments that receive NIH grants. Throughout the meeting, "nary a positive word [was] uttered about the new policy," the Post reports (Weiss, Washington Post, 2/3).
The Post on Thursday also examined how the ethics guidelines could generate a "boon" for the biotechnology sector, as it might spur agency employees to leave NIH and work for private companies.
However, some biotechnology executives also have voiced concern that "the restrictions will chill the relationships between government and for-profit researchers," the Post reports. However, NIH officials assert that the guidelines will not affect collaborative research and development agreements -- "the lifeblood of many biotech companies," according to the Post (Rosenwald, Washington Post, 2/3).