Former NIH Director Touts Benefits of Open Federal Science

Former National Institutes of Health (NIH) director Harold Varmus touts the benefits of open science in a new video released for Open Access Week (Oct. 18-24, 2010).

In the video, Varmus calls open access, or free online access to scientific papers, an "incredibly important development in the history of science." Open access, he says, "has changed science in a very beneficial way, saved money, and increased the quality of what we do."

Varmus currently serves as director of the National Cancer Institute, an institute of the NIH. He served as NIH director under President Clinton and formerly served as co-chair of President Obama's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. For his pioneering cancer research, Varmus received the 1989 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

As NIH director, Varmus laid the foundation for PubMed Central, a free repository of medical research hosted by NIH's National Library of Medicine. Today, NIH funds $31 billion in medical research. In 2007, Congress required that NIH-funded scientists post papers resulting from NIH funding on PubMed Central for free public access.

The Federal Research Public Access Act, now pending in the House and Senate, would expand that mandate to all federally-funded research. Introducing the bill in 2009 with Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) said, "Our legislation would give the American people greater access to the important scientific research they help fund, which will accelerate scientific discovery and innovation, while also making sure that funding is being spent appropriately to ensure taxpayers are receiving a return on their research investments."

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