Request for Information (RFI): Soliciting Input for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Strategic Plan for Data Science

“The purpose of this Request for Information (RFI) is to invite comments and suggestions on the first National Institutes of Health (NIH) Strategic Plan for Data Science. The NIH is publishing this Notice to solicit input on topics under consideration for the strategic plan from its stakeholders, including members of the scientific community, academic institutions, the private sector, health professionals, professional societies, advocacy groups, patient communities, as well as other interested members of the public….”

Looking ahead at Open Access and US Public Access

“There seem to me to be at least two different things going on. First, the US Public Access Program is distributed, unnamed and not publicized. Second it is ideologically not popular with the OA movement, for various reasons.

To begin with, I have found in numerous discussions with OA people that there is a general lack of understanding of the Public Access Program. 

It does not help that this large federal program has no actual name. I call it the “US Public Access Program” but that is just me. …”

Harvard researchers to help develop cloud-based NIH Data Commons platform – Harvard Gazette

“The National Institute of Health has announced that Harvard co-Principal Investigators Dr. Mercè Crosas and Dr. Timothy Clark are NIH Data Commons Pilot Phase Awardees.

The awards are part of the National Institutes of Health’s new Data Commons program, which will be implemented in a 4-year pilot phase to explore the feasibility and best practices for making digital objects including very large-scale genomics resources, available and computable through collaborative platforms. This will be done on public clouds, virtual spaces where service providers make resources, such as applications and storage, available over the internet. The goal of the NIH Data Commons Pilot Phase is to accelerate biomedical discoveries by making biomedical research data Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable (FAIR) for more researchers….”

A Tale of Two Bills: The Research Works Act and Federal Research Public Access Act

“The RWA didn’t explicitly say that it would amend copyright law, but it could could have done so implicitly, or by superseding any parts of current law inconsistent with the new law.  Under the NIH policy, authors give permission for OA when they are still the copyright holders.  Even when they later transfer some rights to publishers, they retain the right to authorize OA.  Hence, OA through NIH is authorized by the relevant rightsholder, in this case by the author.  But RWA Section 2.1 would have required publisher consent for that OA.  It would have required publisher consent even when the holder of the relevant rights under current law had already consented.  A consent which suffices under current copyright law would not suffice under RWA.  Either that would violate US copyright law or amend it pro tanto (that is, amend it to the extent necessary to avoid irreconcilable conflict between the old and new statutes).

This may seem like a technical point of law.  But it’s the most radical aspect of RWA.  Under current law, in the US and around the world, authors are the copyright holders in their work until or unless they decide to transfer rights to someone else, such as a publisher.  Copyright consists of a bundle of rights, and authors may lawfully transfer all, some, or none of those rights, as they see fit.  If they retain the right to authorize OA, then no other permission is needed.  Under RWA, however, publishers would have held a new right, beyond copyright, to overrule the rights exercised by authors under copyright law.

It was an unprecedented power grab by publishers.  Unlike past, lopsided legal reforms to benefit publishers, this one was not limited to enhancing the rights of copyright holders against users and consumers.  This one would have harmed all copyright holders except publishers, and benefited publishers even when they were not copyright holders….”

Re-introduction of the bill to kill the NIH policy

“The Conyers bill is back (or baaaack).  This is the bill to repeal the OA policy at the NIH and block similar policies at all other federal agencies.  Its sponsors named it the Fair Copyright in Research Works Act, but the bill is to fair copyright what the Patriot Act was to patriotism….”

A bill to overturn the NIH policy

“In their rhetoric, publishers speak as if they are the copyright holders for these articles, and as if the NIH is blocking their full exercise of these rights or even expropriating them.  But that is uninformed or deceptive.  Because the NIH requires grantees to retain a key right, NIH-funded authors now transfer less than the full bundle of rights to publishers.  Publishers don’t like that, and it may be a problem for them, but it’s not a legal problem.  Despite their pose, publishers are not the copyright holders in these articles, without qualification, even after authors sign copyright transfer agreements.  The NIH method of avoiding infringement means that there are plural rightsholders and divided rights in these articles:  the authors have retained at least one and publishers have the rest.  Publishers don’t acquire the key right which would allow them to deny permission for OA or claim infringement or expropriation.  As for the rights publishers do acquire, the NIH policy does nothing to diminish publisher freedom to hold and exercise them.  

Have publishers forgotten this central feature of the NIH policy?  Have its legal consequences still not sunk in?  I find that theory hard to believe.  It would entail that they haven’t read, haven’t remembered, or haven’t understood the policy on which they have focused so much animus and lawyer time.  And it doesn’t square with their justified reluctance to claim actual infringement.  But if they do understand this aspect of the policy, then we’re only left with another cynical theory:  that publishers deliberately stretch the truth by speaking without qualification as if they were the copyright holders for these articles.  But strong or weak, the theory would explain a lot.  If publishers did receive full copyright from authors, or if they believed they did, or if they had some reason to say they did, then their public rhetoric would make start to make sense.  In that world, it would make sense to say that OA through PMC, against their wishes, would violate, diminish, or nullify one of their rights.  

The snag, of course, is that the rhetoric is false, no matter what explains it.  NIH-funded authors retain the key right and don’t transfer full copyright to publishers.  This is what I meant when I said (in SOAN for February 2008) that “publishers cannot complain that [the NIH policy] infringes a right they possess, only that it would infringe a right they wished they possessed.” …”

Chance discovery of forgotten 1960s ‘preprint’ experiment

“For years, scientists have complained that it can take months or even years for a scientific discovery to be published, because of the slowness of peer review. To cut through this problem, researchers in physics and mathematics have long used “preprints” – preliminary versions of their scientific findings published on internet servers for anyone to read. In 2013, similar services were launched for biology, and many scientists now use them. This is traditionally viewed as an example of biology finally catching up with physics, but following a chance discovery in the archives of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Matthew Cobb, a scientist and historian at the University of Manchester, has unearthed a long-forgotten experiment in biology preprints that took place in the 1960s, and has written about them in a study publishing 16 November in the open access journal PLOS Biology.”


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How biologists pioneered preprints—with paper and postage | Science

Abstract:  As a growing number of biologists formally share their papers in online repositories, it’s often said that they are catching up with physicists, who have posted preprints in the online arXiv server since 1991. But biomedical scientists were actually first, reveals a researcher who has traced a “forgotten experiment” from the 1960s, when the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, created a preprint exchange but shut it down when publishers objected. Matthew Cobb, a biologist and science historian at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom, recounts how starting in 1961, a 70-year-old NIH administrator named Errett Albritton formed what he called information exchange groups, consisting of interested scientists working in the same subfield.

Health Research Alliance

“The Health Research Alliance, a collaborative member organization of nonprofit research funders, is committed to maximizing the impact of biomedical research to improve human health….The HRA partnered with the National Library of Medicine (NLM) to enable HRA member-funded awardees to deposit their publications into PubMed Central (PMC) with an embargo no longer than 12 months….”