Good News for Research Access in Omnibus Spending Bill

By Rachel Walden — December 26, 2007

On Monday I mentioned the need to access and understand the full text of research studies in order to properly evaluate them. Last week, the House approved an omnibus spending bill (HR 2764) which will now go to the President for approval. The bill includes a provision that would require authors of journal articles resulting from research funded by the National Institutes of Health to deposit said articles in an NIH database (PubMed Central) to be freely available to the public no later than 12 months after their publication. As the NIH funds billions of dollars of medical research annually, this could potentially make the results of that research much easier for the general public to access.

Work to improve the public’s access to research funded by their tax dollars (through the NIH) has been in process for years, with support from patient advocacy groups and strong resistance from journal publishers. Currently, authors are asked to voluntarily submit their articles, but a very small percentage of them actually do so. As a Washington Post piece notes, “The idea is that taxpayers, who have already paid for the research, should not have to subscribe to expensive scientific journals to read about the results.”

The bill also increases Title X family planning funding by $17 million to $305,315,000, but keeps funding for abstinence-only sex education level at more than $110 million.

As of Friday, Bush was threatening to cancel “pet projects” included in the bill, and has ordered the director of the Office of Management and Budget to propose options for nixing some of the bill’s provisions. It is not yet clear exactly which items in the bill would be targeted for removal.

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