Last week the U.S. Senate
approved the FY2008 Labor, HHS, and Education Appropriations Bill (S.1710),
including a provision that directs the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to
improve its Public Access Policy. The language would require rather than request participation by researchers that it funds, who must deposit copies of all research publications with PubMed Central within 12 months of original publication. In principle, it would be journal publishers who would be required to do this. NIH will fund almost $24 billion of extramural research next year, but so far its voluntary policy has resulted in a deposit rate of less than 5%.
Two late amendments were tabled by James Inhofe, Repulican senator for Oklahoma, which would have totally removed the provision (#3416) or watered it down by only requiring deposit if a publisher’s policy requires/allows it (#3417). Both amendments were later withdrawn and the Bill, which recorded a veto-proof 75 to 19 vote, will now be reconciled with the House Appropriations Bill agreed in July, which includes a
similar provision. The House bill was just 14 votes short of the 290 that would make it veto-proof.
The passage of the bill with its open access provision
intact, first by the House of Representatives, and now by the Senate,
demonstrates strong bipartisan support for open access in both houses of the US
legislature. The unified bid, being worked out in conference now, still needs to go before President Bush. He has threatened to veto the Bill if the spending levels are excessive, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D: Nevada) says the Bill is "fiscally responsible." Even if Bush does veto the Bill, the open access provision now has an excellent chance of success.