White House to make all federally funded research freely available to the public

The White House has unilaterally declared that all federally funded research should be made available to the public for free upon publication by the year 2026 in a move that could potentially bankrupt scientific journals.

“Today, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) updated U.S. policy guidance to make the results of taxpayer-supported research immediately available to the American public at no cost,” the White House directive announced on Thursday.

“In a memorandum to federal departments and agencies, Dr. Alondra Nelson, the head of OSTP, delivered guidance for agencies to update their public access policies as soon as possible to make publications and research funded by taxpayers publicly accessible, without an embargo or cost. All agencies will fully implement updated policies, including ending the optional 12-month embargo, no later than December 31, 2025,” it added.

“This research, which changes our lives and transforms our world, is made possible by American tax dollars. And yet, these advancements are behind a paywall and out of reach for too many Americans. In too many cases, discrimination and structural inequalities – such as funding disadvantages experienced by minority-serving colleges and institutions – prevent some communities from reaping the rewards of the scientific and technological advancements they have helped to fund,” the administration wrote in a statement.

“Factors including race, age, disability status, geography, economic background, and gender have historically and systemically excluded some Americans from accessing the full benefits of scientific research,” the statement charged.

“To tackle this injustice, and building on the Biden-Harris Administration’s efforts to advance policy that benefits all of America, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) released new policy guidance today to ensure more equitable access to federally funded research. All members of the American public should be able to take part in every part of the scientific enterprise—leading, participating in, accessing, and benefitting from taxpayer-funded scientific research. That is, all communities should be able to take part in America’s scientific possibilities,” it continues.

The mandate puts an end to an optional 12-month embargo that previously allowed scientific journals to use a paywall to access research for a period of one year after publication. The Biden administration is calling it unfair and asserts it “has limited immediate equitable access” for Americans.

Data in peer-reviewed research articles are to be made publically available immediately upon publication, and other research data would be made available “within a reasonable time frame.” The fallout from this kind of move impacts the journals that promote scholarly articles and has the potential to shut them down rather than making the research available to the public, according to Stat News.

The White House asserts that the mandate will help “level the playing field across a highly uneven funding landscape between academic disciplines” and allow others to “replicate, and build on the primary research findings.”

“Public access to federally funded research data also helps to level the playing field across a highly uneven funding landscape between academic disciplines – providing possibilities to scholars, students, and the public for secondary use of data that would otherwise be unavailable,” the White House claimed.

“This policy change lowers the barriers to accessing scientific results that are produced by researchers funded by the federal government and is a major advance to support equity in science. The public access policy of the United States Government should benefit all sectors of society and these updates help to achieve that goal and deliver equitable access to America’s research to foster endless scientific possibilities,” the edict from the White House read.

“The American people fund tens of billions of dollars of cutting-edge research annually. There should be no delay or barrier between the American public and the returns on their investments in research,” Alondra Nelson, who is the acting head of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, said in a White House news release.

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