Plans to make scientific research more public

Posted Mar 8, 2015 by Tim Sandle
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has described the process where the National Institutes of Health and related agencies will make scientific research results public.
Back in February 2013, the U.S. government, through a memorandum from John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, insisted that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services makes the outcomes of scientific research public. The intention behind this decision is to allow any citizen the means to view the data behind scientific claims made by federal government. That decision came about after more than 65,000 people signed an online petition requesting that publicly funded research be made open access.
In his statement Holdren indicated: “Scientific research supported by the Federal Government catalyzes innovative breakthroughs that drive our economy. The results of that research become the grist for new insights and are assets for progress in areas such as health, energy, the environment, agriculture, and national security.”
One year on, the Department of Health and Human Services has announced its plans to expand public access to the research funded through its agencies, which include the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Building upon the existing requirement that publications authored by NIH-funded investigators be made publicly available within 12 months of publication, a Department of Health and Human Services statement indicates that this process “will add . . . an estimated 110,000 peer-reviewed scholarly articles authored by HHS-funded researchers each year.”
Due to the fact that the NIH, CDC, FDA, and other agencies operate independently of one another, the Department of Health and Human Services issued separate public access action plans for each. Like the NIH, the CDC already has certain public access policies in place; both of these agencies need to make modification. However, the FDA, as it currently stands, has no such existing rules.
This is reflected in a letter to the White House from Sylvia Burwell, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary. She wrote: “Our operating divisions are at different stages with respect to the maturity of their public access policies and infrastructure. We anticipate these policies to become effective no later than the end of calendar year 2015.”
Keen watchers of U.S. science, especially from bodies like CDC and FDA, will wait to see when the information becomes available and in what form.