September 29, 2022

Memorandum on increasing access to federally funded research introduced

Memorandum on increasing access to federally funded research introduced 

By: Sydney Sheffield 

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) issued a memorandum directing federal agencies to ensure peer-reviewed articles originating from federally funded research are freely available upon publication. This guidance is to be implemented no later than the start of 2026 and applies to data that is necessary to validate scientific findings reported in the publications.

“This research, which changes our lives and transforms our world, is made possible by American tax dollars. And yet, these advancements are behind a paywall and out of reach for too many Americans,” said Dr. Christopher Steven Marcum, Assistant Director for Open Science and Data Policy, and Ryan Donohue, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science and Technology Policy Fellow and Senior Policy Advisor in the White House press release. “In too many cases, discrimination, and structural inequalities – such as funding disadvantages experienced by minority-serving colleges and institutions – prevent some communities from reaping the rewards of the scientific and technological advancements they have helped to fund.” 

The memo updates a 2013 OSTP policy that allows publishers to limit article access to paying customers for one year. The new policy is accompanied by the Economic Landscape of Federal Public Access Policywhich states the benefits of eliminating article embargos now greatly outweigh the costs, and anticipates the move will accelerate recent innovation in publishing business models.

Under the new policy, publications must be made available in agency-designated repositories, and the requirement would apply if any co-author received federal support. The memo states such publications must include “peer-reviewed research articles or final manuscripts published in scholarly journals,” and that agencies may include peer-reviewed book chapters, conference proceedings, and editorials published in other scholarly outlets.

Unlike the 2013 memo, all agencies must submit their plans for new policy implementation to OSTP, not just agencies with research and development expenditures greater than $100 million. Those making more than $100 million are asked to submit within 180 days, while those making $100 million or less are given 360 days. These plans should be completed and published by the end of 2024, and fully implemented by the end of 2025.

Many publishers already have some sort of open-access journal option within their catalog. “We believe these initiatives will achieve equitable access while ensuring the ability for all authors to have access to publishing opportunities without upfront costs,” said Sudip Parikh, AAAS. “While many early reports are signaling that OSTP’s guidance to federal agencies will substantially impact scientific publishers, we believe it is too soon to tell if this guidance will impact our journals.” 

On the other hand, some feel the memo could have unintentional economic ramifications. “The twin goals of the publishing industry—human inspiration and scientific progress—are deeply felt by the scholarly publishing sector, which funds and disseminates thousands of journals covering nearly every academic and professional field in science, technology, medicine, social sciences, and the humanities,” saidShelley Husband, Senior Vice President, Government Affairs, Association of American Publishers (AAP). “In a no-embargo environment, in which private publications will be made immediately available by the government for free, our primary concerns are about business sustainability and quality.” 

Moving forward, OSTP will begin establishing a process for supporting the implementation of these updates.