August 23, 2004
Dr. Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D., Director
National Institutes of Health
9000 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, Maryland 20892
Dear Dr. Zerhouni:
We are writing on behalf of over 11,000 personal members of the Association of College and Research Libraries to express our enthusiastic support for the proposal that the National Institutes of Health provide free public access through PubMed Central to articles that result from NIH-funded research. This proposal, if implemented, will insure that all Americans have access to the results of NIH research that is paid for with their tax dollars.
The vast majority of published research that is federally funded is currently available only through increasingly costly journal subscriptions, institutional license fees, or per article charges. Academic libraries simply cannot afford subscriptions to many journals that are needed by their user communities. Public access to biomedical research is even more limited. The present costly and closed system (with annual subscriptions often costing thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars and per article charges often exceeding $30) leaves the American public without timely access to important research results that they fund through their taxes.
Widespread dissemination of medical advances and scientific findings is critical to obtaining the best return on our nation’s investment in research. Several recent studies have demonstrated that research which is openly accessible has a much higher impact (as measured by citations) than research that is solely available through subscription-based journals. By making its research openly accessible, NIH will greatly increase the impact of the research it funds, making more effective use of tax dollars, benefiting the general public, and accelerating the advance of science.
We are aware that some publishers have expressed concern about this proposed measure. We would emphasize that the proposal does not mandate that journals follow an open access publishing model, so it does not interfere in the journal publishing market in any significant way. The measure would have little effect on journal subscriptions, since most journals publish research that results from many sources other than NIH funding. The proposed policy also does not restrict authors’ freedom to publish with any publisher they choose.
We hope that you will not let such concerns dissuade you from moving forward with this plan, which clearly serves the broader interests of society. In today’s information age, with such rapid access to information as is provided through the Internet, it is critical that Americans have broad access to research knowledge.
We endorse this proposal wholeheartedly and commend both NIH and the National Library of Medicine for working to advance access to taxpayer-funded research.
Frances J. Maloy, President
Association of College and Research Libraries
Ray English, Chair
ACRL Scholarly Communications Committee