The day after Christmas, President Bush signed into law the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2007 (H.R. 2764), part of which contained a mandate for all research funded by the National Institutes of Health to be made publicly accessible within a year of publication in the National Library of Medicine’s online archive, PubMed Central. This is huge news for many reasons, as SPARC’s Peter Suber notes, in particular because
The NIH is the world’s largest funder of scientific research (not counting classified military research). Its budget last year, $28 billion, was larger than the gross domestic product of 142 nations. As my colleague Ray English points out, it’s more than five times larger than all seven of the Research Councils UK combined. NIH-funded research results in 65,000 peer-reviewed articles every year or 178 every day. … Its OA mandate will not only free up an unprecedented quantity of high-quality medical research. It will also make a giant step toward cultivating new expectations –among researchers, funders, governments, and voters– that publicly-funded research should be OA.
Around the same time, the European Research Council also released its guidelines for open access, which affirm academia’s principles of sharing knowledge as widely as possible and make open access mandatory for all ERC-funded research.
Of course, there’s still work to be done. The federal government funds plenty of research through agencies other than the NIH, not to mention research not funded by the government at all. The yearlong embargo in getting the latest medical research is also less than ideal. But this is still a great step forward, one which will hopefully encourage other agencies and individual academics to release their research freely.
Students for Free Culture is proud to have participated, along with many of its member chapters and other organizations, in last February’s National Open Access Day of Action to raise awareness of access to research issues among students and pressure congresspeople to support HR 2764.
Also, the winner of SPARC’s viral video contest, of which I was a judge, was announced at last weekend’s American Library Association Midwinter Meeting. Check it out: