ASH’s Alternative to NIH Policy on Public Access


The American Society of Hematology (ASH) has finalized and signed an agreement with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that creates a new option for nonprofit publishers to comply with the NIH policy on enhanced access. This program will remove the current burden for authors to submit their manuscripts and will maintain the publisher embargo period of up to 12 months. ASH has volunteered Blood to be the first participant in this program and has signed the one-year agreement with the NIH. As a result of ASH’s participation in this program, all Blood authors who published NIH-funded articles from May 2005 forward have no obligation to submit manuscripts to the NIH archive because Blood will do this on their behalf. ASH estimates that approximately 800 articles, from May 2005 to September 2006, will be deposited into the archive.


New PMC (NIH Portfolio) Archive Project

In February 2006, ASH and a group of nonprofit publishers met with NIH Director Elias Zerhouni, MD, to discuss another option to improve compliance with the current NIH public access policy while maintaining the publisher-mandated access embargoes. The publishers proposed a project that would provide NIH with final articles representing NIH-funded research for an internal use archive at NIH. This strategy would achieve Dr. Zerhouni’s goal of creating an archive of NIH-funded research to be used for research portfolio management and linking to NIH databases to advance dissemination of science while maintaining the scientific integrity of the article (final edited version of the article in comparison to raw manuscript version of the article) and maintaining the publisher subscription access embargo.

In follow-up meetings, including consultations with technical experts and online journal hosting providers to better understand the technical ramifications of this action plan, ASH and several other society publishers developed terms for an agreement for the new NIH/nonprofit publisher program – PMC (NIH Portfolio) Archive program, which will work as follows:

  • Participating nonprofit publishers will submit to NIH the final version of NIH-funded research articles upon publication.
  • NIH has internal use only of the articles during the journal’s embargo periods (the time period when articles must be purchased) which can be no longer than 12 months. During the embargo periods, NIH can link to the journal web sites to provide access to NIH-funded research articles. Following the embargo period, NIH can provide links to the journal, but also could distribute the articles directly through its PMC web site.
  • Participants will let NIH provide access to the full text in HTML format following the embargo period. The HTML view of an article will include a page banner that identifies the corresponding journal and provides a link to the journal’s own web site. The only PDF version of the article will rest on the journal web site, which should aid in driving traffic back to the journals’ web sites.
  • NIH obtains 100% compliance from participating journals and can use the full and final text to develop links to other data bases and use the articles in managing research.

Additionally, although not a component of NIH’s stated goals discussed previously with the publishers, NIH inserted a new provision into the agreement that allows the National Library of Medicine to deposit NIH-funded articles into foreign archives.

Although this PMC (NIH Portfolio) Archive program may not be ideal — it continues to have some duplicative provisions to the current private sector publishing models and potentially troubling policy impacts — ASH believes it will achieve NIH’s goals of managing its research portfolio and developing a digital research assistant as well as increasing compliance with its submission policy, which now stands at less than 4%. ASH also believes this program will protect the integrity of journal article of record, maintain business models that enable the society to fund numerous educational and research programs, and, significantly relieve our member-researcher-authors from the burden of submitting manuscripts to NIH. In addition, considering the mounting pressure to tighten the current NIH access policy, ASH believes the PMC (NIH Portfolio) Archive program provides a better alternative for authors and journals than a mandated policy with a shorter embargo period. During the implementation of this program over the course of the year, ASH hopes to continue to work with the NIH on ways to enhance access.

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