The federal government is making significant moves to encourage open access to research. This summer, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) made national headlines with its new guidance. The guidance states that by 2026, research funded by all federal agencies should be made freely and immediately available to the public, with no embargo.
“Right now, you work for years to come up with a significant breakthrough, and if you do, you get to publish a paper in one of the top journals,” the White House announcement quoted then-Vice President Biden as saying in remarks to the American Association for Cancer Research in 2016. “And here’s the kicker — the journal owns the data for a year.”
The new guidance will bring about three significant changes to the status quo:
- Removing the 12-month delay before research publications funded by the largest federal agencies become publicly available;
- Directing that both federally-funded research publications and their supporting data should be made publicly accessible at the time of publication; and
- Bringing all federal agencies into alignment with this open access publishing policy.
While the agencies are being given time to determine how they will operationalize the new guidance, the principles at its heart are in sync with the University of California policies to make research freely available to the scientific community and the public.
Here is what UC researchers should know now about what to expect:
When will these changes go into effect?
The OSTP guidance recommends that all federal grant-making agencies implement the recommended changes no later than Dec. 31, 2025. Some agencies may update their grant requirements sooner.
What will I need to do with my research articles once this policy takes effect?
While many of the details are yet to come as each federal agency determines how they will implement the OSTP guidance, what we can infer now is that:
- We expect agencies that already have policies regarding public access to the research they fund will continue to use their existing processes and update them as needed to align with the new guidance. We will know more about those changes once the agencies release their updated public access plans.
- If you obtain future research funding from a smaller agency that does not yet require deposit in an open access repository, the agency will develop a policy requiring you to make your funded articles open access in some form. (The details may vary by agency.)
How does this federal guidance interact with UC’s open access publishing options?
UC researchers do not have to wait for this government policy to be implemented to make their research open access. In fact, the University of California has had Open Access Policies in place for many years that enable UC authors to make their research publicly available immediately. UC researchers have several open access options:
- If you choose to publish in a journal that is part of one of UC’s transformative open access agreements, the UC libraries will pay all or part of the open access publishing fee on your behalf, using library funds that were previously allocated to pay solely for journal subscriptions.
- If UC does not have an open access agreement with the publisher of the journal that has accepted your article, you can typically choose to pay an open access publishing fee to publish your article open access. Under the OSTP guidance, all federal agencies should allow researchers to include publication and data-sharing costs in their research budgets. You can find trustworthy open access journals, including those that charge low or no publishing fees, by searching the Directory of Open Access Journals.
- Another cost-free option is to upload your final accepted manuscript (i.e., prior to typesetting by the publisher) into UC’s institutional repository, eScholarship. UC’s Open Access Policies allow you to make your final author accepted manuscript (AAM) immediately available on eScholarship (contact the Library with any questions).
Will the new federal guidance make it easier to get funding to cover the cost of open access publishing?
While we do not yet know the details of how each agency will implement the OSTP guidance, based on the current approach by large federal agencies, there will be a no-cost option available — such as an approved government repository — where you (or the publisher) can deposit your manuscript and meet the open access requirement at no cost.
If you wish to make the final version of your article on the journal’s website open access, the UC libraries will pay some or all of the cost for you if UC has an open access agreement with the publisher. Under most of these agreements, if you do not have research funds available to pay for open access publishing, the UC libraries will pay the full amount at no cost to you.
Importantly though, the financial models of these agreements work when enough authors who do have research funds available for open access publishing pay their share. Most funding agencies already allow funds to be used for open access publishing fees, including flexible money that may not have been allocated explicitly for this purpose in the grant budget at the outset. The OSTP guidance, which specifies that “federal agencies should allow researchers to include reasonable publication costs,” reinforces this position for all federal agencies.
Where and how do I share my data?
The NIH has already released an update to its data sharing policy that will go into effect in January 2023. This new policy requires researchers to submit two-page Data Management and Sharing Plans and encourages data sharing via subject-specific repositories. To read more about this policy and learn about data sharing, visit the UCSF Library’s NIH DMS Policy homepage. As other federal agencies update their policies we will consolidate this information as well.
Who can I contact if I have more questions?
Please contact the library’s Head of Scholarly Communication, Anneliese Taylor if you have additional questions.
Image courtesy of UCSF Photography Library.