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NIH sees surge in open-access manuscripts

Last November, the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) said that “as of spring 2013” it would start cracking down on enforcing its public-access policy — and it seems the agency is now seeing positive results.

NIH public manuscript submissions

National Institutes of Health

In May, authors approved more than 10,000 peer-reviewed manuscripts arising from NIH-funded research to go into the agency’s online free repository, PubMed Central. That’s a huge jump from the average 5,100 per month in 2011–12, and suggests the agency is nearing its goal of getting everyone it funds to make their papers publicly available. (Numbers available in csv format; the NIH also publishes them, so far without the May update, here).

“Things have stepped up considerably,” says David Lipman, director of the NIH’s National Center for Biotechnology Information in Bethesda, Maryland, but he did not give an overall figure for compliance with the NIH’s policy. (In addition, some publishers deposit final published articles straight into PubMed Central rather than going through the NIH’s manuscript submission system; around 35,000 papers per year, or 2,900 each month, get to PubMed Central via this route, but that number hasn’t changed this year).

The public-access mandate requires investigators to submit papers arising from NIH-funded research to PubMed Central when they are accepted for publication; those papers must then become freely accessible to the public within 12 months of publication.

As of last year, the agency was seeing a 75% compliance rate (with some indications that it had risen to 80% by the end of the year). In November, it said it would start to withhold the next installment of grant funds from grantees who did not comply with its policy. Although authors are sending in new papers, the jump this year also comes from older papers that were never previously submitted, Lipman says.

Meanwhile, the UK Wellcome Trust, which was seeing only a 55% compliance rate for its own public-access mandate as of a year ago, says that by October 2012 the compliance was up to 60%. That’s a “modest increase” as the result of an announcement in late June 2012 that it would toughen up enforcement of its policy, a spokesperson notes. The research charity is monitoring to see whether its new sanctions have had a further impact, but says it doesn’t yet have data to release for 2013.


  1. Report this comment

    Stevan Harnad said:



    Bravo to NIH for shoring up the compliance mechanism for its Green Open Access (OA) Self-Archiving Mandate, now over 80% successful.

    Soon NIH will be joined by over 20 other major US funding agencies newly mandated to provide OA by President Obama:

    And the next to awaken, once the funder mandates are up and running, will be the US slumbering giant of OA, the universities and research institutes, who are the providers of all research output, funded and funded, in all fields. Led by Harvard and MIT, they will close the circle and make all US research output OA:

    Europe too is following suit, both funding councils and universities:

    The only laggard is the former leader of it all — the UK.

    Bogged down by the continuing legacy of Finch Folly, in which the publishing industry and a few overzealous advocates of “Libre Gold OA” (i.e., paying publishers extra money to make articles OA with certain extra re-use rights) managed to lure BIS Minister Willetts into going against the worldwide tide of mandating cost-free Green OA. Research Councils UK (RCUK) has preferentially mandated instead that even more of the UK’s scarce research money should be thrown at publishers, to pay for Libre Gold OA in preference to the cost-free Green OA in which the UK itself had, since 2004, been setting the example for the rest of the world.

    All’s not lost for the UK, however, as the Ueber-funding council, the Higher Education Funding Council of England (HEFCE) has proposed that the next round of research assessment, REF, should mandate immediate-deposit in the fundee’s institutional repository (i.e., Green OA) as a condition for an article’s being eligible for consideration for REF. If adopted, that mandate will effectively put the UK back in the lead in the worldwide race to reach 100% OA:

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