Open Access Amendment to NIH Reform Act Is Withdrawn

SPIN readers may recall that APA, as publisher of 43 scholarly journals, is very concerned about the impact that any new open access requirements could have on its journals program. Consequently, Public Policy Office staff were watching closely as U.S. Representative Mike Doyle (D-PA), a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, introduced an amendment to H.R. 6164, the NIH Reform Act of 2006 (see this SPIN issue for more on H.R. 6164) that would have required all journal articles about federally funded research to be deposited in a free, open archive (NIH's Pub Med) no later than six months after they were accepted for publication.

SPIN readers may recall that APA, as publisher of 43 scholarly journals, is very concerned about the impact that any new open access requirements could have on its journals program (see the May 2006 SPIN article on this issue). Consequently, Public Policy Office staff were watching closely as U.S. Representative Mike Doyle (D-PA), a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, introduced an amendment to H.R. 6164, the NIH Reform Act of 2006 (see this SPIN issue for more on H.R. 6164) that would have required all journal articles about federally funded research to be deposited in a free, open archive (NIH's Pub Med) no later than six months after they were accepted for publication. NIH's current policy is voluntary, not mandatory, and asks that articles be archived in Pub Med within 12 months of being accepted for publication. APA sent this letter to Rep. Doyle encouraging him to withdraw his amendment until the Congress could more fully consider its ramifications. Ultimately, Rep. Doyle did withdraw his amendment, most likely at the request of the Energy and Commerce Committee leadership. H.R. 6164 was then reported by the Committee and passed by the full House, 414-2, on September 26, 2006. The following language appears in the report accompanying H.R. 6164:

      "Section 5 requires the Secretary of HHS, acting through the Director of NIH, to establish an electronic system to uniformly code research grants and activities throughout the NIH. The electronic coding system must be searchable by a variety of codes, such as the type of research grant, the research entity managing the grant, and the public health area interest. When permissible, the Director must provide information on relevant literature and patents that are associated with research activities of the NIH. The Committee has listened to stakeholder concerns about NIH's current open access policy with respect to making published literature available online. The Committee will continue to monitor the open access policies adopted by the NIH, including the management of the program and the participation levels of scientific journals."

APA and many other scientific publishers, both nonprofit and for-profit, have raised several concerns about open access policies. While journals such as Science and Nature may not experience a financial impact as a result of depositing articles in an open archive after a six-month window, APA journals have a longer 'shelf life' and would likely undergo loss of institutional and private subscriptions. Unprofitable or only marginally profitable journals may, in turn, be harder for APA to support. Open access policies elsewhere in the world have led to different business models, with journals charging authors for the publication of their articles, since subscription revenue does not cover the journals' publication costs. While some disciplines (e.g. economics) are accustomed to that model, psychologists are not. Proponents of open access policies say that consumers have the right to free information about the research funded by public tax dollars.

The open access issue will no doubt remain on the agenda of Congress and the NIH in coming months. Watch this and other APA publications for additional information about calls for open access in scientific publishing and the effects such policies could have on APA and other scientific journals.