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HHMI announces new access policy for research articles

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The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), a non-profit medical research organisation in the USA, will require its scientists to publish their original research articles in scientific journals that allow the articles and supplementary materials to be made freely accessible in a public repository within six months of publication.

'We have sought to balance the goal of public access with the important principle of scholarly freedom in the formulation of this policy and believe that it represents a positive step for us and for the broader scientific community,' said Thomas Cech, HHMI's president.

Announcement of the policy is said to follow extensive consultation within the community of HHMI scientists, including Hughes investigators and researchers at the newly opened Janelia Farm Research Campus. It represents an extension of existing policies that already require HHMI scientists to share published research materials, databases, and software in a timely and useful fashion.

The policy applies to all manuscripts submitted on or after 1 January 2008, for which an HHMI scientist is a major or corresponding author. Collaborative research articles on which an HHMI scientist is not a major author are not subject to the policy, but HHMI strongly encourages its scientists and collaborators to meet its public-access standards.

HHMI has designated PubMed Central (PMC), the free digital archive of biomedical and life sciences literature maintained by the National Institutes of Health, as the repository for journals in the biological sciences. Articles published in journals that are outside the biological sciences are expected to be deposited in comparable repositories and made publicly available within six months.

According to Cech, many journals in which HHMI scientists publish original research articles already meet the policy requirements. For example, HHMI has already announced agreements that comply with its news policy with Elsevier, John Wiley & Sons and the American Society of Hematology, which publishes the journal Blood. Cech said that discussions with other publishers are ongoing.