The NIH heard public comments yesterday on its plans for implementing PL 110-161 Section 218, a new law that grants the agency broad powers to intervene in the scientific publication system.
Scientific publishers were out in force. According to The Scientist, Jack Ochs of the American Chemical Society (ACS) was first in line to offer comments:
He started out by saying that a brief meeting was no substitute for the formal comments on rulemaking process like the one the NIH held when they were implementing the voluntary submission program in 2005. He was the first of several to call a halt to implementing the mandate so the details could be worked out.
A lot is riding on the outcome. The new law requires NIH grant recipients to deposit peer-reviewed manuscripts of their publications into PubMed Central, in apparent opposition to the policies of many leading scientific publishers - including the ACS.
NIH has given its grant recipients until April 7 before compliance will become mandatory. It remains unclear what steps, if any, ACS will take to enable authors to comply.
Unless ACS policy changes, NIH grant recipients face the possibility of losing one of the most prestigious publication options in chemistry.
Also see Peter Suber's comments.