What the White House Open Access Publishing Guidance Means for UC San Diego Researchers

The federal government has been making significant moves to encourage open access to research. A year ago, on August 25, 2022, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) posted an announcement on guidance for open science that made national headlines. The guidance states that by 2026, research funded by all federal agencies should be made freely and immediately available to the public, with no embargo.

There should be no delay or barrier between the American public and the returns on their investments in research,” said Alondra Nelson ’94, the former director (2021-2023) of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and UC San Diego alumna

A month ago, in an effort to build on the guidance and “elevate the needs, priorities, and experiences of those who will shape and inherit the future of open science,” the OSTP posted the Readout of OSTP Open Science Listening Sessions with Early Career Researchers.

The guidance will bring about three significant changes to the status quo:

  1. Removing the 12-month delay before research publications funded by the largest federal agencies become publicly available;
  2. Directing that both federally-funded research publications and their supporting data and metadata, with persistent identifiers, should be made publicly accessible at the time of publication; and
  3. Bringing all federal agencies into alignment with this open access publishing policy.

While the agencies are being given time to determine how they will operationalize the new guidance, the principles at its core are aligned with the University of California Open Access Policies to make research freely available to the scientific community and the public.

Here is what UC researchers should know now about what to expect:

When will these changes go into effect?

The OSTP guidance recommends that all federal grant-making agencies implement the recommended changes no later than December 31, 2025. Some agencies may update their grant requirements sooner.

What will I need to do with my research articles once this policy takes effect?

While many of the details are yet to come as each federal agency determines how they will implement the OSTP guidance, what we can infer now is that:

  • We expect agencies that already have policies regarding public access to the research they fund will continue to use their existing processes and update them as needed to align with the new guidance. We will know more about those changes once the agencies release their updated public access plans.
  • Funding agencies that don’t currently require deposit into an open access repository will be developing new policies that are in line with the OSTP guidance.

How does this federal guidance interact with UC’s open access publishing options?

UC researchers do not have to wait for this government policy to be implemented to make their research open access. In fact, the University of California has had Open Access Policies in place for many years that enable UC authors to make their research publicly available immediately. UC researchers have several open access options:

  • If you choose to publish in a journal that is part of one of UC’s transformative open access agreements, the UC libraries, through the California Digital Library (CDL), have negotiated agreements that provide publishing discounts to UC authors or (depending on the publisher agreement) will pay all or part of the open access publishing fee on your behalf, using library funds that were previously allocated to pay solely for journal subscriptions (background and process).
  • Plan ahead by including publication costs in your research budget. If UC does not have an open access agreement with the publisher of the journal that has accepted your article and the journal charges a fee to publish, you can typically choose to pay an open access publishing fee to publish your article open access. Under the new OSTP guidance, all federal agencies will allow researchers to include publication and data-sharing costs in their research budgets. 
  • You can find trustworthy open access journals, including those that charge low or no publishing fees, by searching the Directory of Open Access Journals and evaluating titles you don’t recognize with tools such as Think, Check, Submit.

Will the new federal guidance make it easier to get funding to cover the cost of open access publishing?

While we do not yet know the details of how each agency will implement the OSTP guidance, based on the current approach by large federal agencies, there will be a no-cost option available — such as an approved government repository — where you (or the publisher) can deposit your manuscript and data to meet the open access requirement at no cost.

Importantly though, the financial models of the UC’s transformative agreements work when enough authors who do have research funds available for open access publishing are able to pay the remainder. Most funding agencies already allow funds to be used for open access publishing fees, including flexible money that may not have been allocated explicitly for this purpose in the grant budget at the outset. The OSTP guidance, which specifies that “federal agencies should allow researchers to include reasonable publication costs,” reinforces this position for all federal agencies.  

Where and how do I share my data?

Most federal agencies have not released specific information on new requirements around data and metadata, but there are several general changes that can be anticipated. These include data being deposited into a service that makes it publicly available, with appropriate metadata and persistent identifiers. UC San Diego researchers have several options already available to them which we anticipate continuing to meet future needs. These include a research data repository managed by the UC San Diego Library, as well as free access to the Dryad data repository. There are also a number of domain and discipline-specific repositories that fulfill open access needs.

The Library’s Research Data Curation Program (RDCP) can assist researchers to choose an appropriate repository, as well as help with metadata and persistent identifiers. The NIH has already released an update to its data sharing policy that went into effect in January 2023. This new policy requires researchers to submit two-page Data Management and Sharing Plans and encourages data sharing via subject-specific repositories. To read more about this policy and learn about data sharing, visit RDCP’s NIH Data Sharing Policy page. NIH also released the NIH Public Access Plan to address next steps related to publications, PIDs, and metadata. 

As other federal agencies update their policies we will consolidate this information as well. New information is being tracked by relevant library and campus service providers. We will make updates available on this guide as soon as possible. 

Who can I contact if I have more questions?

Please contact the Library’s Scholarly Communications Librarian if you have questions about publications or the Library’s RDCP if you have questions about data.

Post adapted from UCOP communication and UCSF post authored by Anneliese Taylor.

Image credit: The image has been adapted CC BY-SA 4.0 by Allegra Swift from WhiteHouseSouthFacade CC BY-SA 3.0 Matt H. Wade on Wikimedia, geisel-library-1-UCSanDiego.jpg by Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego on the UC San Diego Public Image Gallery, Open Access logo CC0 by art designer at PLoS, modified by Wikipedia users Nina, Beao, and JakobVoss on Wikimedia.