The federal government is making significant moves to encourage open access to research. In August 2022, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) made national headlines with its new guidance that, by 2026, research funded by all federal agencies should be made freely and immediately available to the public, with no embargo.
“Right now, you work for years to come up with a significant breakthrough, and if you do, you get to publish a paper in one of the top journals,” the White House announcement quoted then-Vice President Biden as saying in remarks to the American Association for Cancer Research in 2016. “And here’s the kicker — the journal owns the data for a year.”
The new guidance will bring about three significant changes to the status quo:
While the agencies are being given time to determine how they will operationalize the new guidance, the principles at its heart are in sync with the University of California’s long-standing commitment to make our research freely available to the scientific community and the public.
Here is what UC researchers should know now about what to expect:
The OSTP guidance recommends that all federal grantmaking agencies implement these changes no later than Dec. 31, 2025. Some agencies may update their grant requirements sooner.
While many of the details are yet to come as each federal agency determines how they will implement the OSTP guidance, what we can infer now is that:
We expect the agencies that already have policies regarding public access to the research they fund will continue to use their existing processes to the extent possible, updating them as needed to align with the new guidance. We will know more about those changes once the agencies release their updated public access plans.
If you obtain future research funding from a smaller agency that does not yet require deposit in an open access repository, the agency will develop a policy requiring you to make your funded articles open access in some form. (The details may vary by agency.)
As a UC researcher, you do not have to wait for this government policy to be implemented to make your research open access. In fact, the University of California has had an Open Access Policy in place for many years that enables UC authors to make their research publicly available immediately. To do so, you have several options:
Yes. When the final, published article is open access, it is easier for other researchers to find and cite your work using the final page and figure numbers (regardless of whether their institution has subscription access to the journal), and this can increase the impact of your research.
Some publishers will also streamline the process by submitting the final published article to the appropriate government repository on your behalf when you publish open access in one of their journals (for example, these publishers offer this option for NIH-funded research).
While we do not yet know the details of how each agency will implement the OSTP guidance, based on the current approach of the large federal agencies, there will be a no-cost option available — such as an approved government repository — where you (or the publisher) can deposit your manuscript and meet the open access requirement at no cost.
If you wish to make the final version of your article on the journal’s website open access, the UC libraries will pay some or all of the cost for you if UC has an open access agreement with the publisher. Under most of these agreements, if you do not have research funds available to pay for open access publishing, the UC libraries will pay the full amount and there will be no cost to you. (Or, if you are publishing in a fully open access journal that is not covered by one of UC’s publisher agreements, the UC Davis Library will reimburse you up to $1,000 for the APC through our Open Access Fund.)
Importantly, the financial models of these agreements work when enough authors who do have research funds available for open access publishing pay their share. Most funding agencies already allow funds to be used for open access publishing fees, including flexible money that may not have been allocated explicitly for this purpose in the grant budget at the outset. The OSTP guidance, which specifies that “federal agencies should allow researchers to include reasonable publication costs,” reinforces this position for all federal agencies.
As agencies implement the OSTP guidance on data sharing, they may recommend or require specific repositories.
Until those details are known, a subject-specific repository is usually the best place to share your data since it will be an intuitive location for other scientists to look for datasets in a particular field.
There are also general repositories that take in a variety of subjects and interdisciplinary datasets. UC has partnered with the Dryad repository, and UC affiliates can deposit data there for free (as long as it is open and unrestricted, and contains no personally identifiable human subject information; see their FAQ for details).
Tip: When submitting data to a general repository, include data collection protocols, instruments, and other relevant documentation to ensure ease of data reuse. This will significantly enhance how FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable) the data are.
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy is also providing a list of FAQs.