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Please Don't Copy-Cat Clones NIH-12 Non-OA Policy!

Stevan Harnad harnad at ecs.soton.ac.uk
Wed Jan 19 17:01:29 EST 2005

Although the original NIH-6 mandate -- that the authors of all journal
articles reporting NIH-funded research must make their articles freely
accessible on the Web within 6 months of publication -- would already have
been a compromise (because Open Access (OA) to research findings needs
to be immediate), NIH-6 was nevertheless stoutly defended in the
American Scientist Open Access Forum.

But it now looks as if the NIH-6 mandate has mutated under pressure into
the "NIH-12 invitation" -- that all authors of journal articles reporting
NIH-funded research are invited to make their articles freely accessible
on the Web within 12 months of publication.

NIH-12 falls far short of what both the House of Representatives and
the Senate recommended. NIH-12 does not provide Open Access (OA, which
is defined as immediate, permanent, free online access). It is OA that
research, researchers, research funders, and the funders of the research
funders (the tax-paying public) need. It is OA that maximises the usage,
impact, productivity, progress and benefits of research for everyone.

In biomedical research especially, 12-month-delayed access is not Open
Access, it is Legacy Access, to the old, back-volume literature, not
to the growth region of biomedical science. The main purpose of OA is to
make the cutting edge of research available to all its would-be users
worldwide, not just to those users who happen to be at institutions that
can afford to subscribe to the journal in which the research happened
to be published. NIH-12 will make very little difference to research
progress, particularly as more and more journals are making their legacy
back-volumes freely accessible online already anyway.

Hence it is now more important than ever that other research-funders,
institutions, universities and governments worldwide should resist the
inevitable tendency to copy-cat clone the NIH-12 policy as the answer
to their OA needs, just because the NIH did it. NIH-12 is not an answer
to OA needs. It is not OA at all. If I had known it would come to this,
I would never have defended it.

Much more promising OA policies are being formulated this month and
next at two important meetings, one for UK OA policy, one for worldwide
OA policy:

    "OA Institutional Archives Workshop in Southampton 25-26 Jan 2005"

    "Berlin 3: Implementing the Berlin Declaration on Open Access"

Consider rationally, don't clone reflexively! There are far better
examples to follow than the ill-fated NIH-12.

History of NIH-12:

    "E-Biomed: Very important NIH Proposal" (1999)

    "Floyd Bloom's SCIENCE Editorial about NIH/E-biomed"

    "AAAS's Response: Too Little, Too Late" (2001)

    "Shulenburger on open access: so NEAR and yet so far" (2003)

    "AAU misinterprets House Appropriations 
    Committee Recommendation" (2004)

    "Open letter to Congress from 25 Nobel Laureates"

    "A Simple Way to Optimize the NIH Public Access Policy"

    "Critique of PSP/AAP Critique of NIH Proposal"

    "URGENT support for NIH public access policy"

    "Critique of STM Critique of NIH Proposal"

    "Critique of Stanford/HighWire Press Critique of NIH Proposal"

    "Critique of APS Critique of NIH Proposal"

    "Victory for the NIH open access plan in the House"

Stevan Harnad

A complete Hypermail archive of the ongoing discussion of providing
open access to the peer-reviewed research literature online (1998-2004)
is available at:
        To join or leave the Forum or change your subscription address:
        Post discussion to:
    american-scientist-open-access-forum at amsci.org

UNIVERSITIES: If you have adopted or plan to adopt an institutional
policy of providing Open Access to your own research article output,
please describe your policy at:

    BOAI-2 ("gold"): Publish your article in a suitable open-access
            journal whenever one exists.
    BOAI-1 ("green"): Otherwise, publish your article in a suitable
            toll-access journal and also self-archive it.

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