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Jan 22, 2008  11:01 PM | Luis Ibanez

NIH Policy on Open Access:

The article below, published in Science magazine underlines
how important is for NIH funded authors to


Otherwise, once the Journals hold the copyright of your paper,
you are not in capacity to comply with the US Federal law that
require you to post the paper in PubMed Central (PMC), and will
jeopardize your current and future NIH funding.

The AAP (American Association of Publishers) claims that the new
policy "undermines publishers copyrights". They forget too fast
that the copyright of those papers was not theirs in the first

* The copyright of the papers belong to the authors,
since they are the original creators of content.

* Journals "demand" authors to transfer their copyright
to the journals as a requisite for publishing papers.

* Then Journals use copyright protection laws in order
to restrict access to the papers.

The problem can be solve at its root:


simply give them a license to publish your paper.

You can use the Creative Commons Attribution license, for example.

Or any other license that you decide to negotiate with the Journal,
*as long as* it includes *your right* to post a public version of
your paper in PubMedCentral.

Licensing your paper should be good enough for a Journal, since this
is exactly what Journals offer to University Libraries and to *you*
when you subscribe to publications. You simply receive a license to
access the papers for "personal use".



Science 18 January 2008:
Vol. 319. no. 5861, p. 266
DOI: 10.1126/science.319.5861.266

Prev | Table of Contents | Next
News of the Week
Uncle Sam's Biomedical Archive Wants Your Papers
Jocelyn Kaiser

If you have a grant from the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH),
you will soon be required to take some steps to make the results public.
Last week, NIH informed its grantees that, to comply with a new law,
they must begin sending copies of their accepted, peer-reviewed
manuscripts to NIH for posting in a free online archive. Failure to do
so could delay a grant or jeopardize current research funding, NIH warns.

The public-access law, touted as a way to enable taxpayers to learn
about the research they fund, was part of a spending bill Congress
passed in mid- December. It makes mandatory a policy in effect since May
2005 that requests that NIH-funded investigators submit manuscripts
accepted by a journal to NIH; the agency posts the full text in the
archive, called PubMed Central (PMC), no more than 12 months after the
article is published. Only about 12% of authors are complying with the
voluntary policy, however, and of 80,000 eligible articles per year,
only 20% to 25% are being submitted either by authors or directly by
journals, says David Lipman, who oversees PMC.

NIH says it is ready for the glut of manuscripts it will soon receive,
but there are signs that some scientists may be confused about what to
submit. For example, NIH is already removing old papers that authors
mistakenly posted in PMC. Lipman acknowledges that there will be "a
learning process" but notes that traffic on the site is already "huge,"
with 12 million article views each month.

NIH's brief notice simply states that the policy is mandatory for all
articles accepted on or after 7 April. Initially, NIH requested that
only original research be archived at PMC, but now the agency says the
policy has been expanded to include review articles if they were
peer-reviewed. Many journals retain copyright of the manuscripts they
publish, so authors must obtain permission to post a copy on the NIH
site. It is up to investigators and their institutions to figure out
whether their submissions comply with the journals' policy.

Figure 1

To give scientists a nudge, NIH will require them to include the PMC
number when they cite their own papers in grant applications and
progress reports. Other possible ways of forcing scofflaws to comply
range from having a program director call with a reminder to "the most
extreme: suspending funds," says NIH Deputy Director for Extramural
Research Norka Ruiz Bravo. "We hope we're not going to get there," she says.

The new law puts NIH in line with some other funding agencies that
require grantees to send their papers to PMC or a U.K. version of the
archive; these include the U.K.'s Medical Research Council and Wellcome
Trust, which adopted such policies in 2006, and the Howard Hughes
Medical Institute (HHMI) in Bethesda, Maryland, whose rule goes into
effect this month (see table). All three institutions require that
papers be posted within 6 months of publication in a journal. NIH
differs in one way: Whereas other funders help pay author fees that some
journals charge to make the full text immediately available, NIH is not
offering any extra money for "open access," Ruiz Bravo says.

Critics have long warned of potential snags. For example, they note that
it will often result in two versions of an article on PMC: the accepted
manuscript, which hasn't been copyedited, and the published paper.
Publishers also have worried that making articles available for free
will cut into the subscription income needed to run journals and other
society activities. The Association of American Publishers had no
immediate comment on the NIH plan, but AAP has warned that a mandatory
policy "undermines" publishers' copyright and is "inconsistent" with
U.S. laws (Science, 11 January, p. 145).

Scientists who have been sending their papers to PMC say the process is
relatively easy, but keeping track of each journal's copyright policy i
s not. For example, Karen Allendoerfer, lab manager for HHMI
investigator Susan Lindquist of the Whitehead Institute in Cambridge,
Massachusetts, says figuring out whether the author must submit articles
directly or can rely on the journal to do it is "a pain in the neck."
(NIH has tried to help by posting a list of some 300 journals that
automatically upload articles to PMC.)

As for journals, although most major biomedical publications (including
Science) already allow authors to submit manuscripts to PMC, some
publishers say they will need to police the site for articles mistakenly
posted, such as those not yet released from the journal's embargo or
those published before 2005. Martin Frank, executive director of the
American Physiological Society, says APS asked NIH to remove 78 papers
last year, and he expects "hundreds" of similar errors when the
mandatory policy kicks in. Lipman acknowledges that NIH had to remove
some papers. But complying with copyright, he says, is not NIH's
responsibility; it's "between the author and the publisher."

Jan 23, 2008  01:01 PM | David Kennedy
So, a couple of questions.

1. Has anybody done this (assign, for example, a creative commons license as opposed to assign copyright to the journal)? If so, which Journals? How do you do it (strike out the copyright text the journal provides you and replace it with other text)?

2. Why the 'creative commons license'? What's the benefit of this compared to other options? What are the other licensing options? Do I need my institution to agree to the licensing agreements I'm entering?

Thanks for starting these important discussion topics!
Jan 23, 2008  05:01 PM | Luis Ibanez

These are all great questions.

Let me start with the second question:

a) The Creative Commons by Attribution License is certainly not the only option. It is however a very popular one. Many of the Open Access journals have adopted this license. In particular PLoS and the BioMedCentral Journals.

In practice, any other license would work as long as it specifies that you retain the right of distributing your paper in PubMedCentral (PMC) *AND* allowing readers to download it from PMC and redistribute it. Note that just the permission to post it in PMC is not enough, because then, readers who download the paper are still missing an authorization for copying the paper, and you are forcing them to engage in copyright infringement in order to read the result of research that they have paid with their taxes. The public shouldn't be forced to engage in crime in order to learn what was done with their money.

Do you need your institution to agree ?


In fact your institution *ALREADY* agreed the day you submitted a proposal to NIH. It also ratified the agreement the day you start spending NIH funds in your research. At that point, the new Federal Law requires you to make your papers publicly available.

Note that your institution *always* have to approve *any* copyright transfer agreement, since as your employer, the institution is the real copyright holder of the paper. Many researchers ignore this fact, and they engage in fraud when they sign copyright transfer agreements for papers without the authorization of the intellectual property office of their institution. The same researcher is also engaging in copyright infringement (another federal crime), when they send the paper to a Journal without the authorization of their institution, who, again, is the real copyright holder of the work. The Journal, also engages in copyright infringement when they publish and sell that paper for which they only have a fraudulent copyright transfer form.

About the first question:

I don't know if anybody has done
that to a Journal.

So, I propose we do it. ! :-)

Let's submit a paper to IEEE TMI discussing this issue and let's specify that we will not sign the standard IEEE copyright transfer agreement, but instead we offer two options:

a) Assign a Creative Commons by Attribution license to anybody (including of course IEEE)


b) Modify the text of the standard IEEE agreement to specify that the authors will reserve the right to submit the final version of the paper to PMC, *and* permit readers of PMC to redistribute the paper.

I'm attaching a modified version of the IEEE Copyright Transfer form, that will simply assign to IEEE a license allowing them to copy, distribute, perform public display and produce derivative work from your paper. In this modified version there is no copyright transfer involved.


Jan 23, 2008  08:01 PM | NITRC Moderator
The form that Luis mentions in the last post can be found here: