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Spotlight: White House releases updated public access policy

“Financial means and privileged access must never be the pre-requisite to realizing the benefits of federally funded research that all Americans deserve.” -White House Office of Science & Technology Policy (OSTP)

The White House Office of Science & Technology Policy (OSTP) issued an updated policy last week that will make taxpayer-funded research immediately available – with no embargo period – for the public to access and use.

The new policy guidance strengthens a 2013 directive requiring large federal agencies to develop public access plans for the articles and data that result from their support. The guidance eliminates the optional 12-month embargo period for sharing papers in repositories and requires that data underlying research in peer-reviewed articles also be made immediately open.

Citing Covid-19 and the rapid sharing of papers and data related to the pandemic as a “powerful case study” on the benefits of this practice, the OSTP argues that research that is freely available without delay can “super-charge” the rate of discovery as well as address inequities in scholarship and in society more broadly.

“This is most welcome news,” says Chris Bourg, director of MIT Libraries. “We’re grateful to the OSTP for this new guidance that advances open and equitable scholarship for all. MIT has long advocated for immediate, no-embargo access to the products of research – from the MIT Faculty Open Access Policy to the MIT Framework for Publisher Contracts. It is a foundational part of our vision, and we’re thrilled to see this important step forward.”

The OSTP policy aligns with much of what MIT researchers and staff already do: the Institute originally passed its faculty open access policy, one of the country’s first, in 2009; the policy allows for immediate access to and reuse of research papers. Today, 57 percent of MIT faculty-authored journal articles are freely available in DSpace@MIT, the Institute’s repository. Immediate access to scholarly articles is also a core principle of the MIT Framework for Publisher Contracts, and the MIT Libraries have signed framework-aligned contracts with 10 publishers that allow MIT authors to publish their work openly at no additional cost to the author. The recently announced MIT Prize for Open Data highlights the value of open data by awarding cash prizes to MIT research trainees working on or with open data.

The OSTP policy calls for other changes, such as making research articles machine-readable so they can be text and data mined; collecting and publicly sharing metadata about funding sources and authors; and asking agencies to develop plans to share additional federally funded data that isn’t associated with articles. The guidance also now applies to all federal funding agencies, not just the largest ones.

The OSTP has given agencies until the end of 2025 to fully implement their public access and data sharing plans. The government says it will support federally funded researchers in several ways:

  • Allowing them to add publication and data sharing costs in their research budget proposals;
  • Supporting early-career and underserved researchers, e.g., by expanding programs that give grants to increase racial and gender diversity; and
  • Exploring academic incentive structures so that institutions and researchers are better recognized for their support of public access to papers and data.

For more information, see this fact sheet from the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC). For help with questions about research funder requirements, Ask Scholarly Communications.

We will update our web page as we learn about changes to funder policies.

(article first appeared on the MIT Libraries news site, August 29, 2022)