The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) issued a memo to Federal agencies today that requires them to make the results of taxpayer-supported research available to the American public free of charge.

Dr. Alondra Nelson, who leads OSTP, instructed agencies to update their public access policies as soon as possible. The memo also called on agencies to fully implement updated policies by Dec. 31, 2025, and remove the 12-month embargo on Federally funded research – which essentially served as a year-long paywall for scientific publishers.

“When research is widely available to other researchers and the public, it can save lives, provide policymakers with the tools to make critical decisions, and drive more equitable outcomes across every sector of society,” Dr. Nelson said. “The American people fund tens of billions of dollars of cutting-edge research annually. There should be no delay or barrier between the American public and the returns on their investments in research.”

The new policy will prevent publishers from gatekeeping access to Federally funded research and data – which would often only be accessible through expensive journal subscriptions, sometimes reaching into the thousands of dollars.

This means work from organizations such as The MITRE Corporation and the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) – who produce Federally funded research – would also be made freely available and publicly accessible.

According to the memo, agencies must now establish transparent procedures that ensure “scientific and research integrity is maintained in public access policies,” as well as coordinate with OSTP to ensure the equitable delivery of research results and data.

In the short term, OSTP said it will work with agencies to update their public access and data sharing plans by mid-2023.

Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Ed Markey, D-Mass., sent a letter to Dr. Nelson earlier this year calling for a public access policy for Federally funded research.

“To truly meet the magnitude of the research and innovation needs of today’s fast-paced, globalized world, including meeting the goals of the Cancer Moonshot, our nation needs a bold, comprehensive, and government-wide public-access policy guaranteeing rapid access for all Federally funded research articles with broad re-use rights,” the senators wrote in February.

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is MeriTalk's Assistant Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.