Victories for open access!

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.

Read Students for Free Culture board member Gavin Baker’s analysis of the bill’s passage and the NIH’s subsequent policy changes.

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:

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  2. monika maccoun

    Thank you for the wonderful information. I am a student and have worked on some NIH funded grants. Nice to see that the participants and their families are now able to satisfy their curiosities.

  3. The Virtual Public University is Now a Reality

    If you never had the opportunity to attend Princeton or Yale, higher learning is now just a mouse click away. The world’s first online public university is now a reality, and anyone with an internet connection can easily access various lectures from universities around the world from the comfort of their home. This ambitious project is the brainchild of a 26-year-old university student from Aarhus, Denmark.

    Suddenly, knowledge is no longer confined to the stuffy walls of the lecture hall. At students — and anybody else – can download lectures from universities around the world – absolutely free. From a technical standpoint, the site is set up much like the well known, as is also based on the users’ willingness to add lectures to the site. The lectures are available as streaming video, download, audio and text file in their original languages and can be found by using an easy-to-use search engine, simply by entering a key word or phrase such as “Einstein” or “Theory of Relativity”. When a user has watched/listened to the lecture, he or she is able to discuss it with other people in the online discussion forum. Users can also print out the discussion and use it as a reference during their studies or elsewhere, thereby bringing a whole new perspective to the global exchange of knowledge.

    The idea to put together and make available lectures from around the world is something new. Jakob Sandvad, a 26-year-old university student, is the creator of the project. He explains: “Public University Online is on the one hand a very idealistic project whose main goal is to give people of lesser means access to relevant knowledge. Engineers in a small African town may now follow lectures from the finest universities around the world as long as the town has Internet access. On the other hand, it is an extensive, yet uncomplicated, data base which merely provides and discusses public lectures on the Internet.”

    Public University takes the basic setting of the university lecture hall into the 21st Century and beyond by offering lectures in all of the latest media platforms. The project is an idealistic and ambitious attempt to create a worldwide, democratic and open system to exchange knowledge and ideas and as such, it is available for free. “It should be seen as an addition, not a competitor, to the established universities, many of which are still seen as closed and elitist. I believe that the site will help create better and more involved students,” explains Mr. Sandvad. He has developed the site with help from family and friends. It is his hope that others will be able to see the project’s potential and contact him. So far Mr. Sandvad has uploaded 1,000 lecture links and has another 7,000 ready and waiting.

    For more information or an interview, please contact Jakob Sandvad at tel.: +45 26293396 or by e-mail:

  4. James

    After reading, I thought this might be a useful resource for your site:

    The site is free, and perhaps the most comprehensive biomedical site on the web. It has all PubMed and MedLine documents, plus mililons more including full-text journal articles and a large database of theses and dissertations.

    And, you don’t have to register but if you do you can use portfolios to save documents, share documents (and comment on them) between users, and set up automatic alerts.

  5. Very informing post. Just found an excellent site with UK government documents on it – is a really well made site and them seem to be very up to date – always posting the latest UK government documents released to the public. Worth a look.

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