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.
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.