Federally funded studies must be free and accessible to the public, the White House has decided.
What happens to scientific research conducted with federal funding is dictated by White House policy, and has been for decades. Until now, federally funded researchers have been allowed to publish their findings in paywalled academic journals for up to one year. But that ends now.
A memo issued Thursday by the administration of President Biden directs all federal agencies funding research and development of any sort to update their policies to require immediate public access.
The agencies must now “make publications and their supporting data resulting from federally funded research publicly accessible without an embargo on their free and public release,” according to the White House memorandum. It will affect more than 20 agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, NASA, the Department of Transportation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Paywalls, the White House says, have been a detriment to educational equity, with underfunded schools often not able to afford the steep subscription prices for some academic journals, leaving them using older, less relevant research. Minority-serving colleges like HBCUs are typically underfunded compared to white-majority schools.
“All members of the American public should be able to take part in every part of the scientific enterprise—leading, participating in, accessing and benefiting from taxpayer-funded scientific research. That is, all communities should be able to take part in America’s scientific possibilities,” senior policy adviser Dr. Ryan Donohue and assistant director for open science and data policy Dr. Christopher Steven Marcum wrote in the White House’s announcement.
Aside from educational parity, it is hoped that publicly publishing more data sooner will accelerate the pace of scientific progress, making advancement a more cooperative field. We saw success in that vein with the massive, international push to research COVID-19 in its early months. There is no reason that strength can’t tackle other issues.