The rumours have been buzzing around Capitol Hill since before last year’s election, and last week, supporters of open-access publication in the United States got most of what they wanted. The White House declared that government-funded research would be made free for all to read, rather than kept behind paywalls. However, those hoping that the government would require papers to be free from the time of publication were disappointed.
In a 22 February memo, John Holdren, director of the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), gave federal agencies until 22 August to produce plans for making the data and papers from the research they fund more accessible to the public. The move, he says, would “accelerate scientific breakthroughs and innovation” and boost economic growth. Agencies should aim to make research papers free by 12 months after publication — a concession to publishers, who say that a year’s delay is needed to maintain their revenue from subscriptions.
The policy applies to an estimated 19 federal agencies, which each spend more than US$100 million on research and development. It would roughly double the number of articles made publicly available each year to about 180,000, according to the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, an open-access advocacy group in Washington DC, which called the memo a “landmark”. Until now, only the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) has required its research to be publicly available after 12 months.