Re: Victory for the NIH open access plan in the House

From: Alexander Grimwade <>
Date: Tue, 23 Nov 2004 12:27:05 +0000

FYI...The following article appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer on
Sunday 21 November. The original is at: (for a
limited time).

Alexander M. Grimwade Ph. D.
400 Market Street, Suite 1250
Philadelphia PA 19106-2501

Phone: (215) 351 1660 x3020
Fax: (215) 351 1143
Web Site: =20

Posted on Sun, Nov. 21, 2004=20

A case of publish or perish

Eric Peters is a contributing editor to Consumers' Research magazine

For decades, the National Institutes of Health and the world's leading
universities and private research facilities have relied on scholarly
journals to disseminate their peer-reviewed studies to a wider audience.

Publishers of the journals, in turn, invest as much as $200 million
annually on the peer reviews required to ensure that the science
contained in the studies is unimpeachable.

They recover that money and earn a profit through subscriptions to the
journals. Most subscribers are large organizations such as medical
schools or scientific laboratories that treat the cost as a necessary
business expense.

Now all that may be about to change, and not necessarily for the better.

NIH is proposing that any scientist whose work is funded by its research
grants must make the resulting journal article available within six
months of publication on a new NIH Internet site. NIH estimates the site
will cost taxpayers up to $4 million a year to operate.

At first blush, the proposal sounds like a good idea - one that would
allow scientists, doctors, researchers, patients and students free
access to most government-funded studies merely by sitting down and
turning on the computer.

Unfortunately, the NIH proposal contains a number of major flaws that -
on balance - could cripple rather than advance important scientific and
medical research around the globe.

While only 30 percent to 40 percent of the research published in
scholarly journals derives from NIH-sponsored studies, early posting of
it on the Internet would wreak havoc on journal publishers, who estimate
that 70 percent of the lifetime value of an article would be lost if
articles are posted on a public Web site six months after publication.

Losing that money would cost publishers hundreds of millions of dollars
annually and jobs throughout the $10 billion industry. Some smaller,
more esoteric journals likely would fold, potentially constricting
progress in the emerging areas of science they cover. Even larger
journals with flourishing revenue streams might be adversely affected.

As a result, reams of valuable research articles might never be
published and thus not spark the additional research that could lead to
cures for dread diseases or new, more effective medicines.

The "open access" proposal is the brainchild of NIH director Elias
Zerhouni, an eminent radiologist from Johns Hopkins University, who was
appointed by President Bush in May 2002.

Nonprofit publishers say Zerhouni's current stance on the issue would
cut off an important revenue source that helps keeps important medical
and scientific societies afloat.

Both for-profit and nonprofit publishers worry that Zerhouni's proposal,
if adopted as is by the NIH, would open a Pandora's box with other
government agencies and additional requirements to post studies online.

Peter Banks of the American Diabetes Association notes that "the
greatest problem in health care today is not limited access to
information, but limited understanding and application of research
already widely known."

Many in the science and medical research publishing community are
pushing for a compromise plan that would allow Internet posting of
journal-published research within 18 months of its publication.

That time period would allow publishers a better chance to recoup their
investments in these articles, while interested parties still could
access the studies at thousands of U.S. libraries that maintain
subscriptions to the scholarly journals.

A reasonable compromise would be a win-win situation for everyone -
allowing additional access to the research community and the general
public, while maintaining a healthy mix of the private and
not-for-profit publishers that have served science and medicine so well.

This was written for the Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service.
Received on Tue Nov 23 2004 - 12:27:05 GMT

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