The U.S. CURES Act would mandate OA

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Mon, 2 Jan 2006 19:52:22 +0000

On Mon, 2 Jan 2006, Peter Suber wrote:

> The U.S. CURES Act would mandate OA
> The bill goes beyond the NIH public-access policy in several important ways.
> (1) It requires free online access and does not merely request it.
> (2) It requires deposit at the time of acceptance by a journal.

These two components are indeed critical ones, making the CURES bill infinitely
preferable to the current NIH policy. The requirement gets its thrust
from the following:

> (5) It explicitly says that non-compliance may be a ground for the funding
> agency to refuse future funding.
> (6) It explicitly relies on the existing government purpose license
> (45 CFR 74.36) instead of publisher consent as the legal basis for
> disseminating the research results.

There is only one missing component for making the CURES bill the best of all
OA policies on offer or under consideration. The remaining problem is *not*
that it still allows an access embargo (although of course that is highly
undesirable too):

> (3) It shortens to six months the permissible delay or embargo between
> deposit and free online access.

With immediate deposit required, the delay between the time of deposit
and the time when access is set as OA can be bridged by users requesting
eprints by email (based on the immediately visible metadata for the
deposit), and authors emailing them. So the delay loophole is not the
critical problem. The real problem is this:

> Public access would be provided by PubMed Central, although the articles
> could be deposited in other repositories as well.

Stipulating central (PubMed Central) deposit rather than author-institutional
deposit was one of the 3 fundamental flaws of the NIH policy, and the
easiest one of them to remedy:

    "A Simple Way to Optimize the NIH Public Access Policy" (Feb 2004)

All that is needed is to require depositing *either* in the author's
own OAI-compliant IR (preferably), from which PMC can then automatically
harvest it, *or* (in the absence an author-institutional IR) depositing
directly in PMC.

The difference between a central and an institutional deposit requirement,
though it may sound trivial, is actually critical: Not just because
institutional archiving spreads to all disciplines in an institution,
and across institutions, well beyond what the agencies fund...

> (4) It extends the OA policy beyond the NIH to the other agencies

...but also because IRs are more likely to implement the email-eprint
feature to cover the embargo period for restricted deposits.

    "Emailing Eprints During Any OA Embargo Period"

The optimal solution is for CURES to require institutional deposit. Failing
that, an alternative is to try to persuade PMC to implement the
automatic-emailing (requester-to-author, author-to-archive) feature
in PMC for restricted-access deposits. (But it's a harder one for
a 3rd-party archive to defend, especially after it has accepted a
6-month publisher-dictated embargo! The researcher's own IR, in contrast,
 could do it as a natural matter of course.)

> The only stronger OA policy put forward by a public funding agency is
> the draft policy released for comment last June by the Research Councils
> UK (RCUK). [ ]
> The draft RCUK policy is stronger because it applies to all government
> funded research, not just medical research;

True, but that is because the RCUK policy is being proposed by all
the UK funding agencies, not just the medical ones. (If CURES required
institutional archiving, its influence would propagate far beyond what
the agencies involved fund.)

> it relies on distributed institutional repositories, not a central repository;

True, and that is one of the RCUK proposal's greatest strengths.

> and it lets authors use grant funds to pay processing fees at journals
> that charge processing fees.

It would be helpful if CURES did that too.

> But we haven't seen the final form of the RCUK policy.

True. Let us hope we will see it -- and see it adopted -- soon!
If RCUK requires immediate deposit, preferably in the fundee's IR,
it will be the optimal policy.

> The CURES Act hasn't been adopted, merely proposed, but we do know its
> final form and, at least for now, it would make the U.S. Department
> of Health and Human Services the worldwide leader in providing public
> access to publicly-funded medical research.

If CURES were adopted, even as-is, this would certainly be true, and
all credit would go to DHHS. But if CURES were first tweaked on its 3
remaining flaws -- one of them fundamental (requiring central deposit
instead of institutional), the other two important too (allowing an
embargo and failing to cover OA publication costs), then CURES would
become the optimal OA policy.

> The CURES Act has had remarkably little press coverage.

That is indeed surprising, considering how much coverage the far weaker
NIH policy received. But maybe it is that low profile that has helped
get it this far!

Stevan Harnad
Received on Mon Jan 02 2006 - 21:40:00 GMT

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