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Public Access to Research Funded by National Institutes of Health – Now Law

On Dec 26th, 2007, President Bush signed the Bill that requires all NIH-funded research to be made available to the public.

This is wonderful news. The NIH funds research to the tune of $29billion, and all of the published output of this work will now be freely and publicly available within 12 months of publication. In practical terms, this means that any researcher funded by the NIH has to ensure that their papers are deposited at the NIH-funded digital archive called PubMed Central, and are released to the public within 12 months.

One of the most effective ways to comply with this new requirement is for researchers to publish their work in fully open access journals such as those of PLoS. As part of the service we provide to authors, we deposit every article in PubMed Central so that it can be a part of this evolving and important online archive. And this happens as soon as the article is published – so that anyone with an interest in the work can immediately read it and build on it.

Many individuals and organizations have worked very hard to help make the new law happen – none harder than the great people at SPARC and the Alliance for Taxpayer access. You can read the ATA press release here, look at some of the reaction in the blogosphere here, and read a terrific summary of the background to the whole story in recent issues of Peter Suber’s newsletter (in November and December).

There’s still a way to go before we get close to the goal that inspired visionaries such as Harold Varmus, chairman of the PLoS Board of Directors, who envisions comprehensive, unfettered access to research literature coupled with new tools and mechanisms for knowledge mining and discovery. But the new law in the US is a very significant step in the right direction. Happy New Year!

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