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AAP and STM criticise new NIH publication policy

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According to The Association of American Publishers (AAP), the new NIH research publication policy undermines intellectual property rights essential to science publishing. It reaffirmed that journal publishers who have opposed the policy will continue to pursue their concerns with Congress regarding the policy’s negative impact on science publishing.

‘The new policy is unprecedented and inconsistent with important US laws and policies regarding the conduct of scientific research and the protection of intellectual property rights,’ says AAP’s vice president for legal and government affairs, Allan Adler. ‘Smaller and non-profit scientific societies and their scholarly missions will be particularly at risk as their journal subscribers worldwide will turn to NIH for free access to the same content for which they would otherwise pay.’

The association noted that changing to a new mandatory policy undermines publishers’ ability to exercise their copyrights in the published articles. The NIH policy also threatens the intellectual freedom of authors, including their choice to seek publication in journals that may refuse to accept proposed articles that would be subject to the new mandate.

Under the previous voluntary NIH policy first implemented in 2005, NIH-funded researchers were ‘requested’ to submit an electronic version of their final, peer-reviewed manuscripts to NIH immediately upon acceptance by a journal for publication. This however resulted in a deposit rate of less than 5 per cent by individual investigators. Adler says: ‘Changing to a new mandatory policy that will ‘require’ such submission eliminates the concept of permission, and effectively allows the agency to take important publisher property interests without compensation, including the value added to the article by the publishers’ investments in the peer review process and other quality-assurance aspects of journal publication.’ 

STM, the association for STM publishers, has also expressed disappointment with this recent passage of legislation in the USA. The organisation objects that the legislation does not provide compensation for value-added services that manuscripts receive from publishers nor earmark funds to ensure ‘the economic sustainability of the broad and systematic archiving that this sort of project requires’. STM also believes that the legislation undermines copyright.

STM CEO Michael Mabe commented, ‘Other governmental bodies, such as the European Commission, have recognised the unique role and extensive investments made by scientific publishers in the organisation of peer review, the management of publication processes, the production, access, distribution, preservation and digitization of scientific knowledge. They have called for an evidence-based approach toward questions like the broad and systematic archiving of scientific manuscripts to ensure that the current system of scientific publishing is not destabilised without reason.’