Tuesday, September 07, 2004

NIH considers big open publishing move

There has been an ongoing debate in the scientific community about the place for open access publishing. Some argue that, through the peer-review process, subscriber-only research journals are the gatekeepers of scientific excellence, and (much like pharmaceutical companies) non-profit professional organization sponsored journals (like Science) as well as for-profit journals (like any of those freaking expensive ones that Elsevier puts out) provide valuable revenue to the rest of the scientific community.

Others argue that the government spends a lot of money to support research in this country and people should have access to that information without it being locked up in high subscription fees. Afterall, not all of us go to Yale and have a library with subscriptions to everything.

In response to the House Approprations Commitee, the NIH put out a proposal for public comment. Basically they want all scientists who get NIH grants (and that's a lot of scientists) to submit final papers for online publication up to six months after publication in another journal. This means that journals will only have a small window where subscription "means" anything and after that everyone can go to the free government database.

The publishers are up in arms about these changes and have been lobbying hard for the NIH not to go through with it. I say that they are exaggerating their claim. Most places that can afford subscriptions need to have that material available as soon as it is published. And institutional subscriptions can often run in the tens of thousands of dollars. If you've got an opinion on grant money being contingent on open-access publishing, be sure to let the NIH know by October 3rd.


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