A press release from the Alliance for Taxpayer Access yesterday raised hopes that permanent open access to federally funded research through the National Institutes of Health had been assured by President Obama.
As the release pointed out, on Wednesday, Obama signed the 2009 Consolidated Appropriations Act (PDF), which includes a provision making the NIH Public Access Policy permanent (section 217 on page 621 of this PDF document). The NIH policy that had been in place requires eligible NIH-funded researchers to deposit electronic copies of their peer-reviewed manuscripts into the National Library of Medicine’s online archive, PubMed Central, but the provision had to be renewed every year.
That sounds like a positive step toward ensuring public access to publicly funded research, right?
Well, not so fast.
The Fair Copyright in Research Works Act, HR 801, introduced by U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr. and others, is still active and has been referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary.
AHCJ opposes that bill because it would completely reverse the NIH’s open access policy and would essentially nullify the provision that Obama just signed into law. As Gregg Leslie of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press said, “… any later piece of legislation modifies the current law, so Obama could sign something into law and then soon invalidate it by signing a new bill sent to him after approval by Congress.”