New guidelines require federally funded research to be open access

In a move welcomed by open access advocates, the White House on Thursday released guidelines requiring federally funded research to be made freely and immediately available to the public.

Office of Science and Technology Policy guidelines require federal agencies to immediately make taxpayer-supported research publicly available, eliminating an optional 12-month embargo. It also requires the publication of the data underlying this study. Federal agencies have until December 31, 2025 to establish the guidance.

“The American people fund tens of billions of dollars in cutting-edge research every year. There should be no delays or obstacles between the American public and the return on investment in their research,” Alondra Nelson, head of the office known as OSTP, said in a news release.

Heather Joseph, executive director of the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, spoke Chronicle that the announcement was “extremely welcome news.” He said the provision requiring data disclosure is particularly important and “helps increase scientific integrity and confidence in science” by allowing other researchers to confirm researchers’ findings.

Nelson’s memo outlining the guidelines cites the Covid-19 pandemic as a “powerful case study of the benefits of getting research results and data to the people quickly.” At the start of the pandemic, researchers’ publishers stopped paying for their Covid-related articles and made the research available in a machine-readable format, which Joseph said allowed researchers to use text and data mining, artificial intelligence and computational techniques, among others. ‘ jobs.

The new guidelines expand on a 2013 memo OSTP issued during the Obama administration. This memo only applied to federal agencies that fund more than $100 million in foreign research; There is no such cap in the Biden memo. This means that, for example, work funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, which did not exceed the $100 million threshold in 2013, is covered by the federal open access policy for the first time, said Peter Suber, the organization’s director. Harvard Open Access Project, wrote on Twitter.

The Association of Research Libraries welcomed the expansion in a statement that described the memo as a “historic moment in scholarly communication.”

“Unlocking” studies

Some argue that lifting the years-long embargo some journals have placed on the papers they publish will promote more equal access to research. The previous policy “restricted immediate fair access to federally funded research results to those who can afford to pay for them or who have privileged access through libraries or other institutions,” two White House office officials wrote in a blog post. “Funding and privileged access must never be a prerequisite for realizing the benefits of federally funded research that all Americans deserve.”

This is an issue that President Biden has been fighting for years. A White House press release on Thursday cited his remarks to the American Association for Cancer Research as vice president in 2016 when he criticized taxpayer-funded research that “sits behind walls” made up of journal subscription fees.

The best I can say about this new policy is that publishers hate it.

Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, released a statement praising the guidelines for “liberating federally funded research from expensive, exclusive journals” and calling it “an astronomical victory for innovation and scientific progress.” (Wyden and fellow Democratic Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts called on Nelson to create an open-access policy in February.) And Michael Eisen, co-founder of the PLOS Open Access Project, praised the guidelines. Twitter. “The best I can say about this new policy is that publishers hate it,” he wrote.

It is not clear how academic publishers, whose profits and business models will be affected, plan to adapt to the new guidelines. A spokesperson for Elsevier, a leading commercial publisher of academic journals, wrote in an email to Chronicle that Elsevier “actively supports open access research” and that 600 of its 2,700 journals are fully open access (almost all others, a spokesperson said, allow open access publishing). “We look forward to working with the scientific community and OSTP to understand its guidance in more detail.”

In a written statement, Springer Nature’s administrator noted the company’s commitment to make half of its primary research open access by 2024, saying that “we will use all the tools at our disposal to support authors in making their work immediately available upon publication.”

But Carrie Webster, vice president for open access, also said the OSTP guidelines should be bolstered by an additional commitment to “golden” open access, a model that imposes a processing fee on a researcher, university or funding agency before an article is published. — but after that, anyone can read the article for free, immediately, and there are less restrictions on republishing.

“To ensure a successful transition, funding agencies need to increase their support for gold OA,” said Webster. “Therefore, we hope that the OSTP memorandum will meet the commitment of US federally funded agencies to support Gold OA and provide the necessary funding to accelerate the path toward a full OA research environment.”

Emails from Chronicle two other major academic publishers — Taylor & Francis and Wiley — did not immediately respond.

Some commenters were concerned that publishers would increase the article processing fees, or APCs, associated with publishing them in journals. But Joseph, of the Academic Resources Coalition, said he hopes the guidance’s language, which encourages “actions to reduce disparities in publishing,” especially among early-career researchers and researchers from underserved backgrounds, will prevent that.

“For those publishers trying to charge ridiculously high APCs, it’s difficult because ‘publishing inequality’ means ‘I’ve been priced out of the publishing opportunity. I cannot afford to contribute to the scientific record with my research paper,” Joseph said. The White House blog post also noted that it is working to ensure “support for the most vulnerable members of the scientific ecosystem who cannot afford the rising costs of publishing open access articles.”

And there are other ways for authors to make their work open, Joseph said. He noted that the guidelines allow authors to make their manuscript freely available “in an agency-designated repository” — even if it’s also published in a journal.

The National Institutes of Health, which funds more than $32 billion a year for biomedical research, pledged Thursday to follow the new guidelines. “We are enthusiastic about moving forward with these important efforts to make research more accessible, and we look forward to working together to strengthen our shared responsibility for making federally funded research available to the public,” said Lawrence A. Tabak, Acting Director of the Research Center. NIH, wrote in a statement.

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