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OSTP Policy: What We Know So Far

From Open Access to the latest Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) memo, the movement to widen the availability of knowledge in the form of published research continues. A new 2022 revision to the 2013 mandate to increase access to federally funded research is out. Here’s what you should know about the new OSTP guidance.

Update to OSTP guidance

The original 2013 memorandum from the OSTP directed all federally funded agencies with more than $100 million devoted to research to increase public access to the results. As the OSTP noted in its latest memorandum, “Over 3 million people read these articles for free every day.” Most journal publications and researchers created a 12-month embargo on access to these documents, which was allowed under the 2013 mandate. The new memorandum under the current White House administration recommended some big changes, including:

  • Expanding this guidance to all federal grantmaking agencies, not just those with $100 million research budgets
  • Eliminating the 12-month embargo
  • Requiring federal agencies to develop public access plans that allow anyone to read these publications for free by 2025

While the goal may be to make the results of taxpayer-supported research immediately available to the American public at no cost, there are potentially significant concerns for publishers.

Implications for scholarly journals

In August, the Association of American Publishers (AAP) rejected the new mandate, stating, “Today’s announcement from the OSTP about access policies for private sector research publication comes without formal, meaningful consultation or public input during this Administration on a decision that will have sweeping ramifications, including serious economic impact.”

The AAP statement indicated the academic publishing community has already increased the speed of peer review to accommodate urgent research, as well as embraced new access models to further disseminate research and sustain their constituencies. But they seemed to draw the line at the White House guidance, asking, “How will publishers, especially small publishers, sustain the accuracy, quality, and output that the public interest requires?”

This concern stands in stark contrast to President Biden, who addressed the American Association for Cancer Research in 2016 by saying, “The taxpayers fund $5 billion a year in cancer research every year, but once it’s published, nearly all of that taxpayer-funded research sits behind walls.”

This new requirement does nothing to reduce the burden on publishers who develop the infrastructure to vet and publish this research. It also eliminates the 12-month embargo, which publishers often used to place the research behind a revenue-generating paywall. These new rules apply to scientific publications in which any of the authors receive federal funding. As Editage Insights also pointed out, “With the new policy, researchers will likely be paying more attention to article-processing charges as well as the financial costs of data sharing.”

Effect of the new OSTP guidelines on the publishing and research community

The White House touts the following benefits of the new OSTP ruling:

  • Faster research advancements
  • Greater data transparency
  • Improved collaboration
  • Easier access to research data
  • Increased acceptance of research data

It’s too early to predict the specific approaches federal funding agencies will adopt for researchers, but it’s clear that publishers will feel the impact of these policies. The OSTP memo has far-reaching implications for the global research community, including publishing business models. cOAlition S Executive Director Johan Rooryck recently commented, “If publishers really want to stick to the subscription model, that’s fine. All they need to do is to allow the author’s accepted manuscript to be shared in a repository with no embargo. But one way or another, we are heading for a scenario where all papers from the major funders have to be in a repository on publication.”

Jamie Carmichael, Senior Director, Information and Content Solutions at the Copyright Clearance Center also added, “Publishers and societies of all sizes need to consider automating their data enrichment and modeling processes to spend less time aggregating, normalizing, and analyzing data and more time innovating open access models.”

In worst-case scenarios, publishers will lose subscription revenue because of what is, in effect, an extended public-access policy on all federally funded research. Publishers must now plan for models that overcome these challenges. Societies, in particular, have been reluctant to embrace Open Access due to the potential for a significantly negative financial impact on existing operational structures. These new recommendations may require immediate action by publishers to find alternative revenue models to support their businesses.

Contact your Sheridan or KGL representative for a consultation, or visit our Sheridan/KGL contact pages to learn how we can help you innovate, streamline, and simplify your publishing processes.

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