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NIH Gets Tough on Public Access Policy

The US National Institutes of Health is putting its money where its mouth is when it comes to enabling public access to agency-funded research results. Beginning next spring, NIH will delay funding for grants if the publications related to the award are not in compliance with its public-access policy.

The policy, enacted in 2008, requires scientists to submit journal manuscripts related to NIH-supported research to PubMed Central, where they are to be made accessible to the public no later than 12 months after publication.

Sally Rockey, director of the NIH Office of External Research, notes in a blog post that the public access policy was "an adjustment for all of us" when it was put in place, but since then the agency's outreach efforts have led to "a high level of compliance."

Nevertheless, she adds, "our work is not done as there are still publications — and as a consequence, NIH awards — that are not in compliance."

With at least five months to go before the tighter enforcement goes into effect, "we hope you use this time to assure that publications are in compliance with the policy long before this change in process begins," Rockey adds.

She recommends that researchers start thinking about public access compliance well before the papers are written, and that they discuss with co-authors "how the paper will be submitted to PubMed Central, and who will do so, along with all the other tasks of paper writing."

In addition, she says, "the easiest thing to do, perhaps even today, is to take a couple of minutes to enter the NIH-supported papers you have published in the last year into My NCBI to ensure you meet the requirements of the policy regardless of when your non-competing continuation is due. This will help you avoid a last minute scramble that could delay your funding."

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