Publishers Lunch of 26 August reports that the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) has announced an updated policy that will make journal articles reporting the results of publicly funded research available immediately available to the public free of charge starting in 2026. Current policy allows journals to require payment for access to government-funded articles for a year.

Alondra Nelson, head of OTSP says in the announcement: “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 OTSP estimates that the government funded 195,000 to 263,000 publications in 2020*, about 7-9% percent of the 2.9 million scholarly articles published around the world. They estimate that the annual “cost of public access to the American taxpayer through investments in research” is from $390 million to $789 million.

The Association of American Publishers issued a statement expressing concerns about the policy’s effects on “business sustainability and quality.” To me it has always seemed, at an idiot level, to be appropriate that the taxpayer should be able to access the results of research they funded without having to take out a journal subscription. We’ve payed already. And we are after all only talking about less than 10% of the articles published, so it’s not surely a death blow to any publisher. However, I do have to agree that there will be a greater effect in some subject areas than others — not too much government funded research going on in literary studies after all.

A Publishers Weekly article gives a good roundup of history about the topic.

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* Is it concerning that they seem unable to agree a definition any closer than that? If they‘re not sure, how are publishers meant to make the determination — when and if the policy is eventually put into operation?