Limited public access to published findings stemming from National Institutes of Health (NIH)–funded research, together with a failed attempt to remedy the situation voluntarily, has resulted in a congressional mandate that is sending investigators, universities, and academic publishers scrambling to comply with a new law that is flashing real teeth. Effective April 7, 2008, all peer-reviewed scientific articles based on research supported by the NIH must be freely accessible in PubMed Central within 12 months of their official date of publication.1 Not to be confused with PubMed, the popular MEDLINE search engine, PubMed Central is the National Library of Medicine's (NLM) digital repository of full text biomedical and life sciences literature. Compliance with the revised NIH Public Access Policy, which was passed as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2008, is a statutory requirement and condition of all current Public Health Service grant awards. Ultimate responsibility for ensuring that the appropriate material is deposited in PubMed Central rests with the principal investigator (PI) of the sponsored research, even if the PI is not an author on the publication. This is because, effective May 25, 2008, individuals submitting NIH proposals, applications, or progress reports must include a unique PubMed Central (PMCID) or NIH Manuscript Submission (NIHMSID) reference number when citing published work arising from their NIH-funded research. The former is supplied by PubMed Central upon completion of the deposit, while the latter is provided as an interim identifier by the NIH Manuscript Submission (NIHMS) system, the portal used to upload manuscripts to the NLM's digital archive.2 Material that must be submitted includes the accepted final peer-reviewed manuscript and associated files, including figures, tables, and all supplementary material. Specific instructions regarding acceptable file formats and related procedural issues on the use of the NIHMS system are available at the NIH Public Access Web site.3
Individuals or agencies acting on behalf of NIH-funded investigators are permitted to upload the required material to PubMed Central; however, only the PI of the designated funding source may approve the submission and provide the necessary affirmation that the deposit does not violate attendant copyright or licensing agreements. A number of journals, including the Journal of Neuroscience,4,Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,5 and Cell6 have agreed to automatically deposit the required material into PubMed Central as a service to their authors. A list of journals that have elected to provide the final published version of all articles arising from NIH-funded research without author involvement is available online7 and is updated periodically.
As part of the agreement that transferred the operation of Schizophrenia Bulletin from the National Institute of Mental Health to its new home, the University of Maryland/Maryland Psychiatric Research Center and Oxford University Press offered to “provide free access, via PubMed Central and the journal Web site, to all articles published, beginning with the January 2005 issue, within 12 months of the date of publication”. In accordance with this agreement, Oxford University Press publishes the following statement on their Web site8:
NIH grantees should note that Oxford University Press automatically deposits all Schizophrenia Bulletin articles in PubMed Central, where they are made freely available 12 months after online publication in the journal. This means that publishing in the journal is fully compliant with the new National Institute of Health (NIH) Public Access policy and a separate submission to the NIHMS system is not necessary for Schizophrenia Bulletin authors (see http://nihms.nih.gov/faq.html for confirmation of this).
As awareness of the revised (ie, mandatory) NIH Public Access Policy has grown, several contributors to Schizophrenia Bulletin have noticed that although articles are made freely available on the journal's Web site 12 months after publication, the same material has yet to appear in PubMed Central. The editorial office is working with representatives at Oxford University Press to ensure that this issue is resolved in a timely fashion and that authors are kept informed of our progress. Until such time as Oxford and PubMed Central reach an agreement regarding the format of publisher-supplied manuscripts, authors and PIs of sponsored research articles appearing in Schizophrenia Bulletin are strongly encouraged to deposit the final, peer-reviewed copy of their manuscripts in PubMed Central as soon as they appear in the Advance Access area of the journal's Web site.9 Be advised that the terms of the Schizophrenia Bulletin License to Publish agreement stipulate that manuscripts accepted for publication cannot be made publicly available until 12 months after the date of online publication. The option to embargo material deposited in PubMed Central for up to 12 months is provided during the late stages of the manuscript submission procedure.
Despite a sluggish start to a process that is now mandated by law, there is widespread support among research institutions and academic libraries for the revised NIH Public Access Policy.10 Patients, family members, and the grassroots organizations supporting them will enjoy unprecedented access to the primary scientific literature while researchers will benefit from the increased visibility of their work. Archiving the written results of NIH-funded biomedical research, estimated at upwards of 80 000 new manuscripts yearly, in a permanent, universally accessible and searchable archive is also likely to create significant new opportunities for the development of value-added services based on data mining technologies. While the advantages of increased public access to publicly funded science seem incontrovertible, NIH-funded scientists will, at least in the short term, bear the brunt of the effort needed to make the plan work. By permitting publishers to directly deposit material into PubMed Central while insisting that authors and investigators remain active participants in the process, the NIH has created a system in which journals can partner with authors in ushering in this new era of information sharing. We sincerely hope that our colleagues will regard this as an opportunity rather than an annoyance.