Public Access: House Appropriations Language, OSTP Report, and NIH RFI

When the House Appropriations subcommittees revealed the fiscal year 2025 (FY25) budget for the National Science Foundation (NSF), it included language restricting the implementation of the 2022 Public Access Nelson Memo “Ensuring Free, Immediate, and Equitable Access to Federally Funded Research.” This memo directed federal agencies to make publications and supporting data freely available and publicly accessible at the time of publication. 

This appropriations language follows close on the heels of the release of the ‘Updated Report to the U.S. Congress on Financing Mechanisms for the Open Access Publishing of Federally Funded Research’ from the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). The document was prepared in response to FY24 appropriations language communicating dissatisfaction with an earlier OSTP effort to provide an in-depth financial analysis of the financial impact on Federal research investments, research integrity, and the peer review process.  

While FABBS members societies have demonstrated a strong commitment to open science practices, key questions remain. Most of our scientific societies rely on journal revenue to cover a wide range of activities critical to supporting our disciplines from travel awards, to offsetting conference costs, to professional development opportunities. In addition to concerns about revenue, the primary alternative to the subscription model has been article processing charges (APC) that create barriers to early career scholars with more limited research resources. FABBS members have also voiced concerns about data sharing requirements including how to cover the additional staffing and associated costs on one end and encouragement for stronger enforcement on the other end of the spectrum. 

FABBS and our members have an opportunity to comment on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Draft Public Access Policy and supplemental guidance documents. In February 2023 NIH released its “Plan to Enhance Public Access to the Results of NIH-Supported Research” for public comment as a roadmap for how the agency intends to comply with the White House memorandum.

In 2023, FABBS commented in a joint letter with other scientific societies welcoming NIH’s efforts to enhance public access in line with OSTP guidance emphasizing the importance of equity in public access policy development. FABBS urged the NIH to balance reader access with researchers’ ability to publish, highlighting transparency and recognition of costs borne by researchers and funders. FABBS also suggests adapting federal grant agreements to include reporting on publication fee payments and surveying researchers and institutions about publishing costs to ensure equitable access for all stakeholders.    

Comments are due by August 19.