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White House memo calls for the end of paywalls on publicly-funded research

To be implemented before the end of 2025.

The White House has released new public access guidelines, requiring publicly-funded research to be available for free immediately after it is published. Currently, publicly-funded research can be put behind journals’ paywalls for 12 months before it is available for free.

A memo on the new public access guidelines was released by the new Office of Science and Technology Policy. It states that individual agencies will have to draft their policies based on the guidelines within a year, but larger agencies have 180 days. The updated guidelines are expected to take effect by the end of 2025.

We obtained a copy of the memo for you here.

The changes that must be considered include:

  • If a peer-reviewed scholarly publication is based on federally funded research, it must be made publicly accessible for free upon publication — rather than allowing a 12-month embargo for academic journals,
  • This material must be formatted in a machine-readable way, making it easier to search and catalog,
  • Metadata like funding sources and author affiliations must be included with the publications, helping the public understand who’s backing the research,
  • The scientific data underlying peer-reviewed publications must also be made available to the public unless sharing it would cause legal, ethical, or security problems,
  • Research data that doesn’t result in peer-reviewed work should be shared internally across government agencies,

The updated guidance, unlike the old one, will cover all federal agencies, not just 20. It also expanded the definition of a “scholarly publication” to cover peer-reviewed articles as well as conference proceedings and book chapters.

Unsurprisingly, publishing companies are not pleased with the update.

The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, which has been advocating for public access rules, celebrated the update calling it a “landmark policy guidance.”

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