September 12, 2022
The status quo for the last decade in publishing the results of federally funded research—sequestering it behind a paywall for up to one year—was from the beginning a compromise that fully satisfied no one. It created modest changes in publishers’ business models but also prevented scientists and citizens from accessing the most recent developments advancing environmental justice, cancer research, clean energy technologies and more.
The U.S. government acknowledged as much in August when it announced a new policy for free, immediate public access to federally funded studies, scheduled to take effect by 2026. Open-access advocates celebrated the news, while others, including the Association of American Publishers, expressed concern about the economic impact on members. But details concerning how much the new policy would cost and who would pay were left for another day.
“It is almost as if there was a decision to kick the hornets’ nest and just see what happens,” Tim Vines, founder and project lead of DataSeer, an artificial intelligence–based tool that helps authors, journals and other stakeholders with sharing research data, told The Scholarly Kitchen. “In this day and age, who needs to consult with stakeholders to see what sustainable open policies should look like?”
The new mandate, which applies to all federal agencies funding research, removes a 12-month embargo on article sharing implemented as part of a compromise in 2013 that has been key in sustaining publishers’ subscription-based business models. In short, as of now, the government is no longer willing to compromise. Federal agencies that fund research must develop plans that permit immediate public access to research and the underlying data. This includes peer-reviewed research articles and final manuscripts published in scholarly journals and may also include book chapters, editorials and conference proceedings born from federally funded research.