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OSTP Briefs Science Community on Public Access Guidance 

November 16, 2022

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) hosted a community forum about a memo, sent in August, directing heads of federal agencies to develop policies to facilitate public access to data and scientific publications. The memo, Ensuring Free, Immediate, and Equitable Access to Federally Funded Research had been received with mixed reactions by the scientific publishing community and raised numerous questions. On the call, OSTP leadership offered the context for the memo, reviewed key provisions, and were joined by three agencies who shared their progress meeting the goals of public access.  

Alondra Nelson, PhD, Deputy Director for Science and Society at OSTP, welcomed attendees and provided some context for the memo explaining how it captures the administration’s commitment to open government and open scholarship, especially for research supported by federal funds. The memo builds on the bipartisan Foundation for Evidence Based Policy Act and the Open Act. Dr. Nelson acknowledged that many agencies have been making progress since the 2013 OSTP memorandum, Increasing Access to the Results of Federally Funded Scientific Research. She noted similarities and a key difference in the August memo – the elimination of the 12-month post-publication embargo. 

Christopher Marcum, PhD, Assistant Director for Open Science and Data Policy at OSTP, provided an overview of the key provisions of the latest memo and the timeline for implementation. OSTP hopes to support interagency coordination with the work of the Subcommittee on Open Science while restoring trust in federal agencies. Dr. Marcum underscored the intended flexibility of the new guidance, emphasizing that it does not mandate for open access or any other business model. Proposed revisions to existing agency public access plans are due in late February 2023 for agencies with more than $100 million in research funding. 

Representatives from three federal agencies—National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)—presented highlights of their efforts to meet the goals of the August 2022 memo. NIH was represented by Jessica Tucker, NIH Office of Science Policy, and Jerry Sheehan, NLM. NIH anticipates incorporating the public access guidance into the agency’s policy on data management and sharing, indicating that the process would include active stakeholder engagement to better understand opportunities and challenges associated with fulfilling the OSTP memo.  

Last month, Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK) of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology sent a letter to Arati Prabhakar, PhD, the recently sworn in Director of OSTP.  While supporting the overall goals of the guidance memo, the letter expressed concerns over how agencies would implement the new requirements without negative, unintended consequences. For example, the committee expressed concerns over continued equity to access, preventing the proliferation of multiple versions of peer-reviewed manuscripts, and the additional burden placed on researchers in meeting data repository requirements. 

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