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US orders publicly funded research be made free to access immediately

US orders publicly funded research be made free to access immediately

Times Higher Education

Paul Basken
August 26, 2022
A Biden administration order that published results of federally funded research should be made immediately and freely available to readers worldwide has been hailed as a crowning victory for advocates of open science.
Government agencies will have until no later than 2025 to make its grant recipients comply with the administration’s order, which includes companion provisions that will also make related data openly accessible.
“The American people fund tens of billions of dollars of cutting-edge research annually,” Alondra Nelson, the director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, said in announcing the decision. “There should be no delay or barrier between the American public and the returns on their investments in research.”
On one level, the requirement extends decades of efforts across multiple administrations of both parties in the US, and by governments abroad, to prevent journal paywalls and subscription fees hindering basic scientific cooperation on fundamental pursuits of human health, economic prosperity and societal well-being.
Yet the sudden extent and finality of the US decision – covering a powerful industry with estimated annual revenues of $20 billion (£17 billion) to $30 billion – shocked both sides of the debate.
The imposition, complained the industry’s main lobby group, the Association of American Publishers, “comes without formal, meaningful consultation or public input during this administration on a decision that will have sweeping ramifications, including serious economic impact”.
Open access campaigners, in turn, expressed unmitigated delight. “It is huge,” said Brian Nosek, co-founder and director of the Center for Open Science, a decade-old venture to push sharing and integrity in scientific research. It is “an enormous leap forward”, said Heather Joseph, executive director of the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, which has spent two decades working on the problem.
It brings academia very close to ending the long fight over publisher paywalls, said another leading combatant, Jeff MacKie-Mason, head librarian at the University of California at Berkeley and a top negotiator in recent years for pushing major publishers to accept subscription-fee arrangements.
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