Report: “White House’s Open-Access Research Directive Scrambles Long-Entrenched Models, Raising Key Questions”
In August, the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy released a memo directing all federal agencies to form plans to make all federally funded research publications and data publicly available without embargo by the end of 2025.
Most people who heard the news likely envisioned making a cup of coffee on Jan. 1, 2026, opening up JAMA’s or Nature’s website, and being able to read any article for free.
But that’s almost certainly not going to happen.
The OSTP memo specifies only that new embargo-free manuscripts must be publicly available “in agency-designated repositories” like PubMed Central, not on journal websites. Would-be readers are still going to have to trace new papers to the repository of the agency that funded the work in order to read them.
But key issues around the OSTP guidance remain unresolved. To what extent will journals shift their business models as a result? And what approach will they take to open access? Such issues, experts say, are weighty, with implications not only for scholarly publishing, one of the largest-margin industries in the world, but also for science itself.
“I opened a special bottle when I read the [OSTP] press release,” said Robert-Jan Smits, president of Eindhoven University of Technology, who founded Plan S when he was working as the European Commission’s open-access envoy. “A bottle of good French wine!”
Smits pointed out that the taxpayer currently pays for research three times: when the researcher gets a research grant, when the publisher asks a different researcher to peer-review the work for free, and when institutional libraries pay for subscriptions for the journal. The OSTP’s economic analysis, published the same day as the memo, identifies two additional times the taxpayer pays: if the researcher is assessed a fee for publishing their research, and if taxpayers themselves want to access the research.
If the scholarly publishing tides really will turn upon this new guidance, the research world now has an opportunity to figure out whether the Jenga tower of research should simply be reconstructed with different groups of people at the top and bottom as financial winners and losers, or if it’s possible to build a more equitable structure.
About Gary Price
Gary Price (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. He earned his MLIS degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. Price has won several awards including the SLA Innovations in Technology Award and Alumnus of the Year from the Wayne St. University Library and Information Science Program. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com.