The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has issued a new proposal aimed to increase accessibility of taxpayer-funded research. The proposal, issued late Friday before the Labor Day weekend, comes after several meetings on the issue of open access hosted by NIH. The meetings, and the proposal, were in response to language inserted in the Labor-HHS funding bill by Rep. Istook (R-OK). Rep. Istook reportedly took an interest in the issue of open access publication following conversations in Oklahoma City with NIH Director Zerhouni. The report language stated the committee's concern that "there is insufficient public access to reports and data resulting from NIH-funded research." The report encouraged NIH to develop a policy that would require "any manuscript reporting work supported by NIH grants or contracts be provided to PubMed Central upon acceptance of the manuscript for publication in any scientific journal listed in the National Library of Medicine's PubMed Directory."
This proposal represents a significant departure from the more traditional "author pays" models for open access publication, where pages charges from authors would cover the costs of editing, peer review and layout that publishers currently pay with subscription revenue. Instead, publishers would continue to bear the cost of these services, with no additional revenue, and the government would freely distribute the manuscript online. Publishers have voiced their concern over the proposal that could result in a significant loss of subscriptions. While NIH proposed to adopt this model with a six month-delay in publication on PMC, publishers don't believe the delay is long enough to protect the subscription revenue that funds peer review, editing and layout services. That, publishers argue, would ultimately harm the dissemination of research and the peer review process.
The NIH proposal can be viewed at http://grants1.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-OD-04-064.html. NIH is accepting public comments on the proposal for 60 days.
Stay tuned to the AIBS Public Policy Reports and BioScience for more news on this issue.
Following the national party conventions and summer recess, Congress has returned to work to face a long list of pending measures, including fiscal year 2005 spending measures. Somewhat surprisingly, in the first week back, the House approved HR 5006, a measure providing FY 2005 funding for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. Included in the legislation was an increase for the Department of Education's Math and Science Partnership program. Education's MSP program provides states with funds that are then awarded to various public-private partnership programs within the state. Partnerships must include an engineering, math or science department of an institution of higher education, a high-need school district, and the state education agency. According to language in the House Appropriations Committee report that accompanies HR 5006, MSP "promotes strong math and science teaching skills for elementary and secondary school teachers. Grantees may use program funds to develop rigorous math and science curricula, establish distance learning programs, and recruit math, science and engineering majors into the teaching profession." If approved by the Senate, the House measure would provide $269,115,000 for MSP, the same as the administration's budget request and $120 million above the FY 2004 level. When more than $250 million is appropriated, the funds are allocated to the states by a formula that is based on the number of 5-17 year old students from families below the poverty line.
Funding for the National Science Foundation's Math and Science Partnership program is still pending in the House, where its future is less certain than the Department of Education's MSP program. Unlike Education's program, NSF's MSP grant program is not designed to provide immediate resources to school systems. Rather, NSF's MSP program is a competitive grant program designed to support the development of innovative partnership models, professional development training programs, teacher and student recruitment programs, and other activities. Among the eligible partners are science departments at institutions of higher education. AIBS joined other members of the Washington, DC-based K-12 Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Education Coalition to send a letter to members of the House of Representatives requesting that funds for the NSF MSP program be restored. The House Appropriations Committee proposed a 40 percent cut to the MSP within the Education and Human resources Directorate. If that funding level is approved, the NSF will only be able to sustain existing MSP grants; no new awards would be possible. The coalition's letter reads in part, "We urge you to continue the federal commitment to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education by restoring funds for the peer-reviewed MSP's at the NSF to $140 million, a level that is commensurate with FY 2004 funding." Individuals interested in supporting increased funding for the NSF MSP grant program may wish to call, e-mail, or fax their United States Representative to encourage them to support funding for the program.
Things to consider including in your message:
Intelligent design advocate Stephen C. Meyer, project director of the Discovery Institute's Center for (the Renewal of) Science and Culture, recently succeeded in having a pro-ID review article published in the journal Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. PBSW is a small publication primarily known for publishing taxonomic articles. On 7 September 2004, the Biological Society of Washington issued a statement reading in part, "[Meyer's paper] represents a significant departure from the nearly purely taxonomic content for which this journal has been known throughout its 124 year history. It was published without the prior knowledge of the Council, which includes officers, elected councilors, and past presidents, or the associate editors. We have met and determined that all of us would have deemed this paper inappropriate for the pages of the Proceedings." Furthermore, the PBSW's instructions to contributors states, "Manuscripts are reviewed by a board of Associate Editors and appropriate referees." Thus, it appears that the paper was published in violation of accepted journal policy. The BSW leadership has further stated that they endorse the spirit of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (AAAS) statement on evolution and intelligent design (http://www.aaas.org/news/releases/2002/1106id2.shtml). Interestingly, recent reports by the National Center for Science Education and The Scientist have shown the connections between Meyer's and Richard Sternberg to creationist and pro-ID organizations. According to an article by Trevor Stokes in The Scientist, Stenberg--editor of PBSW when Meyer's article was published-is affiliated with the Baraminology Study Group (BSG) at Bryan College. The BSG publishes Occasional Papers, which are "committed to publishing constructive scientific research in creation biology." According to the National Center for Science Education, the Discovery Institute's Meyer is affiliated with Palm Beach Atlantic University, an institution that requires its trustees, officers, faculty members, and staff to believe that "man was directly created by God."
The House of Representative's Committee on Resources has announced plans to "mark-up" House Resolution 556 on 15 September 2004. The resolution introduced by Rep. James Moran (D-VA) and supported by the USGS Coalition recognizes the contributions that the USGS has made to the nation over its 125 years. The bipartisan resolution currently has 32 cosponsors that include leading members of the Appropriation, Science, and Resources committees. If you value the scientific tools, resources, and data of the USGS, please consider requesting that your Representative cosponsor HRes 556. For more information, please consult the action alert on the AIBS website.
"The scientific community recognizes that peer review is essential for evaluating research. Indeed, in recent years the scientific community has vigorously defended the integrity of the peer review process and championed its use for evaluating data that underpin government actions. If rhetoric and policy proposals are any indication, federal officials also appear to have embraced the concept. The devil is in the details, however, and the details of some recent peer-review proposals have many scientific organizations concerned."