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Not-for-Profit Publishers Call New NIH Rule a Missed Opportunity

Scientific societies worry about burden on researchers and waste of research dollars

For contact information, see below

Bethesda, MD, February 3, 2005 �The final National Institutes of Health (NIH) rule on Enhanced Public Access to NIH Research Information is wasteful of federal research dollars and a missed opportunity to take advantage of available technology and existing efforts, according to a group of the nation�s leading not-for-profit medical and scientific publishers. The final rule ignores significant free access policies already existing in the not-for-profit publishing community that offer more cost-effective public access to the science in their journals.

NIH's new rule requests but does not require authors to deposit into PubMedCentral (PMC) manuscripts of articles reporting NIH-funded research that have been peer reviewed and accepted by journals for publication.  NIH would release these manuscripts to the public within 12 months or less after publication in the journal.  The timing of the release would be determined by the authors, who "should ensure that their PMC submissions are consistent with any other agreements, including copyright assignments," according to the NIH statement.

These publishers believe that NIH should take advantage of the fact that most not-for-profit publishers currently make all their content�not just NIH supported articles�available for free to the public within 12 months.  Not-for-profit publishers believe that the public would be better served if NIH created an enhanced search engine that works like Google to crawl the journals� full text articles and link to the final published articles residing on the journal websites. This would offer significantly more assistance to those seeking medical research results than a database of NIH-funded manuscripts can provide. This public-private partnership would be much less costly to NIH and would avoid the confusion that would result from publishing two different versions of the same article�an unedited version on PubMed Central and the final version in the journal.

�The society publishers� proposal would avoid problems that are bound to occur if there are multiple versions of the same article,� said Nobel Laureate David H. Hubel, Research Professor of Neurobiology at the Harvard Medical School. �This collaboration would offer the public access to the final, definitive publication including commentaries and corrections as contained within the official, permanent journal archive.�

�A joint effort between the NIH and not-for-profit publishers would ensure the integrity of the scientific literature while at the same time reducing the size and therefore the cost to NIH of expanding PubMed Central,� Hubel added.

�Linking to journal sites is seamless and virtually invisible to those who use NIH�s MEDLINE website to search for health information,� noted James M. George, MD, president of the American Society of Hematology.

�The �Free Back Issues� program at Stanford�s HighWire Press already gives the public free access to over 828,000 articles,� according to Stanford University Librarian and HighWire Publisher Michael A. Keller. �HighWire also permits free links to over 389,000 other articles that are listed as references.  Other not-for-profit publishers also offer free access.� 

�NIH�s rule is limited relative to what these not-for-profit publishers are currently doing with Google and patient groups to provide the public with enhanced searchability and improved information access,� according to John Sack, HighWire Press.

Not-for-profit publishers support increased public access to the literature; however, many of their concerns about the NIH proposal have not been addressed.  These include:

�This is a missed opportunity that represents a waste of government resources,� said Martin Frank, PhD, Executive Director, American Physiological Society and coordinator of the DC Principles Coalition. �It is noteworthy that NIH has admitted that it has done no economic analysis of the rule�s impact.�

 "Scientific societies have had a long, successful, and valued public-private partnership with NIH on publications and other activities to advance science and health," said M. Michele Hogan, PhD, Executive Director, American Association of Immunologists. "Our journals provide high quality peer-review, editing, and publication services for NIH-funded research."

"These societies and the journals they publish have acted as responsible stewards of the scientific and biomedical literature for more than 100 years," Hogan said. "What we propose would expand this partnership in a way that benefits the public, advances scientific research, and preserves this important relationship."

�We believe the NIH rule will not achieve the goal of better access to science and will place an unreasonable burden on researchers by requiring them to pursue a duplicative submission process,� said Kathleen Case, publisher for the American Association for Cancer Research.

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Titles and contact information for the society publishers who issued this statement are provided below, followed by a list of organizations that support these recommendations.


Kathleen Case                       215-440-9414
Publisher, American Association for Cancer Research
         Cancer Research
         Clinical Cancer Research
         Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention
         Molecular Cancer Therapeutics
         Molecular Cancer Research
Martin Frank, PhD                301-634-7118
            Executive Director, American Physiological Society
Chair, DC Principles Coalition for Free Access to Science
         American Journal of Physiology (AJP)
         AJP - Cell Physiology
         AJP - Endocrinology and Metabolism
         AJP - Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology
         AJP - Heart and Circulatory Physiology
         AJP - Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology
         AJP - Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology
         AJP - Renal Physiology
         Journal of Applied Physiology
         Journal of Neurophysiology
         Physiology (formerly News in Physiological Sciences)
         Physiological Reviews
         Physiological Genomics
         Advances in Physiology Education
M. Michele Hogan, PhD       301-634-7178
Executive Director, The American Association of Immunologists
         The Journal of Immunology
Michael A. Keller                  650-723-5553
Publisher, HighWire Press (Stanford University)
Martha Liggett, Esq.             202-776-0544
Executive Director, American Society of Hematology
Lenne Miller                          301-941-0235
Senior Director, Publications, The Endocrine Society
         Endocrine Reviews
         Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism
         Molecular Endocrinology
         Recent Progress in Hormone Research
Crispin Taylor, Ph.D. 301-251-0560
Executive Director, American Society of Plant Biologists
         Plant Physiology
         The Plant Cell

The following societies have also endorsed these recommendations:

American Association for Clinical Chemistry
           Clinical Chemistry
American College of Chest Physicians
American Institute of Biological Sciences
American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
            The Journal of Biological Chemistry
            Molecular and Cellular Proteomics
            Journal of Lipid Research
American Society for Clinical Nutrition
         The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
American Society for Nutritional Sciences
         The Journal of Nutrition
Infectious Diseases Society of America
Clinical Infectious Diseases
The Journal of Infectious Diseases
Protein Society
           Protein Science

Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine
           Experimental Biology and Medicine
Society for Leukocyte Biology
           Journal of Leukocyte Biology  

Society for the Study of Reproduction
           Biology of Reproduction

The Rockefeller University Press
          The Journal of Cell Biology
          The Journal of Experimental Medicine
          The Journal of General Physiology