Public gains access to federally funded research

April 25, 2005
Merlina Trevino

Beginning next month, medical scientists funded by the National Institutes of Health will be asked to voluntarily submit final manuscripts describing their research to the PubMed Central online medical archive.

Beginning next month, medical scientists funded by the National Institutes of Health will be asked to voluntarily submit final manuscripts describing their research to the PubMed Central online medical archive.

The NIH Public Access Policy will apply to all manuscripts accepted for publication resulting from research supported entirely or in part by the NIH, according to a press release issued by the institutes.

The move could have far-reaching effects on medical research and the evolution of medical literature accessible on the Internet. Medical societies that sponsor peer-reviewed publications have increasingly turned to for-profit publishers such as Springer, Wiley, and Elsevier Science to manage their online publication services. Subscriptions costs for these journals are often several hundred dollars per year. The cost to download an article can be as high as $30.

"This represents a philosophy of information dissemination for the public good which is in contrast with protecting one's results for the purpose of being singularly credited with the findings of that particular research," said Dr. Douglas Beall, an associate professor of radiology at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

The public access policy will cover such funding as:

  • research grant and career development award mechanisms

  • cooperative agreements

  • contracts

  • institutional and individual Ruth L. Kirschstein national research service awards

  • NIH intramural research studies.

In the release, the government strongly urged authors to submit accepted papers early in the publication process; preferably, within 12 months of the official final publication date.

The electronic age has increased the availability of information and the speed with which it can be accessed. Online publication of government-funded research should benefit physicians, researchers, and the public and may shape future research efforts by allowing the most current information to be included in manuscripts as they are written, Beall said.

The need for speed fostered by electronic availability of information may have its own set of problems, however.

"Pressure to make manuscripts available to conduct prompt peer reviews has the potential to cause evaluation speed to be placed at a higher priority than evaluation accuracy. The thoughtfulness and meticulous evaluation of manuscripts must be emphasized equally as much as the speed by which the manuscripts are evaluated," Beall said.

For more information from the online Diagnostic Imaging archives:

Publication lags presentation at RSNA meeting

Webcasts provide immediate access to current research