Home NIH: $29b in Health Science Set to Go Online for Free

NIH: $29b in Health Science Set to Go Online for Free

George Bush signed a $555 billion omnibus spending bill yesterday that included a huge victory for advocates of open science on the internet. All research funded by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), an agency with a $29 billion research budget, will now be required to be published online, free to the public, within 12 months after publication in any scientific journal.

This should open up a whole world of new opportunities for online research. Readers outside of the academic world but aware of the financial future of health information online in the commercial sector can imagine the analogous excitement about this announcement for academic researchers.

Researchers, academics and others have loudly criticisized the soaring prices of academic journals – which make access to publicly funded research cost-prohibitive to all but the largest institutions and double-charges institutions that paid for researcher salaries already.

The blog Open Access News has a good round up of science blog responses to the news.

Pubmed is the likely home for much of the research, though the law is likely to breathe more life into online sites of scientific activity like the Nature Publishing Group, the science blog search engine PostGenomic and the Public Library of Science.

Data miner Peter Suber from the Unilever Cambridge Centre for Molecular Informatics discusses just one of many reasons this is exciting news.

The hard work continues. But now all fulltext derived from NIH work will be available on PubMed. Other funders will follow suit (if they are not ahead). So our journal-eating-robot OSCAR will have huge amounts of text to mine.

The good news is that we believe that this text-mining will, in itself, uncover new science. How much we don’t know, but we hope it’s significant. And if so, that will be a further argument for freeing the fulltext of every science publication.

In related science news, tech and science lovers (many of whom have libertarian sensibilities) should take note of a new video floating around the interwebs – Ron Paul doesn’t believe in evolution.

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