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NIH grant recipients are being caught in the middle – in between having to comply with a new National Institute of Health request that they submit their results to a public Web site within a year after they are published in a scientific journal, and between the desires of the publishers of their scientific work.

The NIH just instituted a policy of “asking” its scientific grantees to make their work publicly available – whatever that means. Meanwhile, researchers must walk a thin line between such requests and keeping their scientific publishers happy. The policy seems to make no one happy.

I’m all in favor of greater availability – it makes no sense to me that research paid for by American taxpayers (whether under the auspices of the NIH or some other scientific society) should be locked away for the benefit of scientific publishers. That includes, in my opinion, mainstream journals such as Science or Nature. But the NIH ought to qualify its ruling by demanding access, not asking for it.

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