In recognition of the third anniversary of the establishment of the NIH Public Access Policy on April 7, 2008, I’ve sent letters to John Holdren, Director of the Office of Science and Technology PolicyFrancis Collins., Director of the National Institutes of Health; and Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services. The letter to Dr. Holdren is duplicated below; the others are substantially similar. The Alliance for Taxpayer Access provides further background.

April 13, 2011

John Holdren
Assistant to the President for Science and Technology
Director, Office of Science and Technology Policy, Executive Office of the President
New Executive Office Building
725 – 17th Street NW
Washington, DC 20502

Dear Dr. Holdren:

I write to you in my role as the Director of the Office for Scholarly Communication at Harvard University, where I lead efforts to broaden access to the research and scholarly results of our university. I and others at Harvard working towards these goals so central to the university’s mission have been inspired by the National Institutes of Health Public Access Policy, now celebrating its third anniversary. The NIH policy has had an enormous impact in increasing availability of government-funded research to the citizens that have supported it through their tax dollars. Every day nearly half a million people access the over two million articles that the NIH policy makes available through the PubMed Central repository. I am especially proud that Harvard affiliates have contributed over thirty thousand of these articles.

The NIH should be applauded for these efforts to bring the fruits of scientific research to the public, and should be encouraged to provide even more timely access by shortening the embargo period in the policy. I believe that the NIH example should be broadly followed by all government agencies engaged in substantial research funding, as envisioned in the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA) that has several times been introduced in Congress, and encourage you to extend this kind of policy to other science and technology funding agencies as soon as possible.

The tremendous success of the NIH policy should be celebrated.  It provides a sterling example of government acting in the public interest, leading to broader access to the important scientific results that inform researchers and lay citizens alike.


Stuart M. Shieber
Welch Professor of Computer Science, and
Director, Office for Scholarly Communication

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