US moves puts pressure on the Australian government to free up government funded research

In what some are a hoping is a game-changing move for open access to science research and data globally, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy last week updated US policy guidance to make the results of taxpayer-supported research “immediately available to the American public at no cost”.

The decision was welcomed in Australia. Dr Ginny Barbour, Director, Open Access Australasia, told Campus Morning Mail the policy sets a signal that immediate open access is necessary, and embargoes are no longer acceptable. Barbour described it asa substantial game-changing move for open access globally”.

In the memo, Dr Alondra Nelson delivered guidance for US Government agencies to update their public access policies “as soon as possible” to make publications and research funded by taxpayers publicly accessible, without an embargo or cost. Around 400 US federal agencies are expected to fully implement updated policies, including ending the optional 12-month embargo, no later than 31 December 2025.

The memo also directs that the scientific data behind these papers “should be made freely available and publicly accessible by default at the time of publication”.

The decision marks another part of what’s largely a battle between publishers and the open access lobby.

The scope of the decision is a little unclear and will unfold over time but one US advocate, Heather Joseph, executive director of the open-access advocacy organization SPARC was exuberant: “This is an enormous leap forward. For the first time, everyone will have free and immediate access to the results of all federally funded research to speed solutions for global challenges—from cancer to climate change.”

Michael Eisen, a computational biologist and editor-in-chief of the US based open-access journal eLife, said in a tweet: “No more. The best thing I can say about this new policy is that publishers will hate it.”

The Australian Academy of Science pointed Cosmos to its policy issued mid-last year, for a response.

“Open science requires unhindered access to scientific articles, access to data from public research, and collaborative research. Broadening access to scientific publications and data is at the heart of open science so that research outputs are in the hands of as many as possible, and potential benefits are spread as widely as possible.

“The hallmarks of good science are demonstrated expertise, accurate and unbiased reporting, and a commitment to opening one’s work to the scrutiny of peers and the public. This openness builds trust, and this trust allows scientists to expand their thinking and hypotheses, leading to a deeper understanding of the world. “However, many scientific inputs and outputs remain locked behind paywalls. The Australian Academy of Science maintains that the advancement of scientific knowledge is best served through the free, open, and accessibly distribution of high-quality peer-reviewed research. The Academy supports continuing efforts to ensure publicly funded research is freely available and without restriction.”

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