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Comments on NIH public access mandate reveal librarians' support, publishers' concern -

More than 430 public comments have reportedly been filed from a range of stakeholders prior to last week's public hearing regarding the National Institutes of Health's (NIH) public access mandate. The comments adhered closely to arguments made all through the legislative process. The policy, which is set to become effective on April 7, 2008, requires researchers with NIH funding to deposit their final articles to PubMed Central (PMC) to be made available within a year of publication.

In their comments, publishers restated concerns about the policy's effect on the scholarly journals market. Few publishers once again called for a formal federal rulemaking process before implementation. According to a representative of the American Institute of Physics, without careful review, comment, negotiation, and implementation of NIH's public access policy, some well-established and respected scientific journals could be forced out of business. The delegate also pointed to the dismal results of the NIH's previous voluntary policy in 2005, saying it failed because of a lack of engagement between the NIH and publishers of scientific journals.

Meanwhile, librarians and educators have strongly defended the policy and spoken of the lengthy process of consideration it has already gone through. They have urged for implementation of the policy as per schedule. In its comments, SPARC reiterated that all stakeholders have had ample time to consider the policy dating back to 2004. SPARC said that it has, along with many other stakeholders, created 'several programs to help to pave the way for the smooth implementation of the revised policy,' including a range of educational initiatives and practical tools. It also took aim at publishers seeking to block the policy.

Many librarians and educators have used the comments to constructively anticipate challenges and keys to successful implementation.

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