February 15-28, 2005 Edition

NIH Asks Scientists

to Publish Manuscripts

on Public Access Site

WASHINGTON/02/05/05—The U.S. National Institutes of Health are encouraging scientists funded by NIH grants to promptly publish their manuscripts on a free web site managed by the National Library of Medicine, after they have submitted them to medical or scientific journals.

The NIH, which funded nearly $20 billion in research last year, wants to give the public greater access to research paid for by their tax dollars. In 2004 alone, the government-backed NIH-funded 212,000 researchers, and scientists produced more than 60,000 papers in scientific journals in 2003.

NIH director Dr. Elias Zerhouni said NIH should take a leadership role in making NIH-supported research available to the public, and to help scientists disseminate their findings as quickly as possible to broad audiences.

The move threatens scientific journals such as Science, Nature, and The New England Journal of Medicine, which usually charge thousands of dollars for annual subscriptions to research reports, and require a lengthy review process.

The public-access database will be available on the PubMed Central Web site at Scientists can delay publication on the site for up to 12 months to protect for-profit journals. Zerhouni said he does not expect for-profit journals to be hurt by the public access site because only a small number of studies they feature are NIH-funded.

Zerhouni, nevertheless, says NIH hopes to change the landscape of scientific publishing.

Private journals are already receiving competition from free online journals such as those sites run by the San Francisco Public Library of Science and PLoS. Both are supported by the NIH.

The Association of American Publishers responded to the news with caution, saying that it remains concerned about some aspects of the new NIH policy, and will be reviewing the program in more detail.