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preference for authors version

I have recently heard from several sources that the NIH plan for PMC has
changed once again, and that they were now preferring to receive the
author's final manuscript, not the PDF as published.

The latest version of their policy I have seen, dated Feb. 3, 2005,
(http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-OD-05-022.html) says
"If publishers wish to provide PMC with the publisher's final version,
this version will supersede the author's final manuscript in PMC," but
this is not inconsistent with a preference for the author's manuscript.

I ask those on the list who might know, whether this preference is indeed
true, for I can find no good reason for it. I can understand (though not
agree with) the provision for accepting an inferior version, but not for
giving it preference --especially in a permanent archive.

Perhaps the NIH does not consider it an inferior version, but as equal to
or better than the published version.  If so, they are presumably
intending it to replace the publisher's versions for all purposes. I've
previously said that if it proves to be too expensive to supply the
published versions to all readers, such a plan might be the best
alternative. But how can we be so readily abandon all possibilities of
financing a proper publication system based on the current one? And who
among us would like to see a replacement brought about by subterfuge?

They may see accepting it because it is inferior as demonstrating that it
is _not_ intended to replace conventional publication. But it's the other
way round. Preferring (or requiring) the published version very clearly
requires the continuation of the publishing enterprises. If the NIH does
want to support publishers, it should say that it will accept only
published versions, and will ensure that publishers receive enough funding
to produce them. If it does intend to provide for the best dissemination
of the work it supports, then it should specifically provide for
publishing it all as OA without embargo and in definitive form.

Dr. David Goodman
Associate Professor
Palmer School of Library and Information Science
Long Island University