Analyzing the Cost of Open Access for Federally Funded Research

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) is facing demands from Congress to provide a detailed cost estimate for its open access plan for federally funded research. Initiated by OSTP in August 2022, the plan requires that research funded by science agencies be freely accessible to the public upon publication. It mandates OSTP to complete a thorough financial analysis by June. Failure to meet this deadline will require OSTP to delay its plans until the report is submitted to Congress.

OSTP has already explored the financial aspects of open access in two reports. The first report, released in 2022, estimated annual costs to be between $390 million and $789 million. A follow-up report in 2023 focused on article processing charges (APCs), necessary fees for publishing in open access journals, showing an increase from $272 million in 2016 to $379 million in 2021.

With these financial considerations in mind, federal agencies funding research are tasked with creating open access plans by the end of this year and implementing them by the end of 2025. While the transition to open access is underway in many agencies, OSTP’s directive displays a significant change in publication practices, moving from a subscription-based to an author-pay model. This has led to concerns about potential disadvantages for researchers from institutions with fewer resources and about restrictions on researchers’ choice of publication outlets.

Some legislators have voiced worries that the shift to a model where authors pay could unfairly impact those from less wealthy backgrounds and limit researchers’ control over where and how their work is published. In contrast, OSTP argues that research funded by taxpayers should be readily accessible to them, underlining the public interest in free access to scientific findings.

As OSTP works to meet the congressional demand for a financial analysis, the discussion on the open access policy highlights ongoing considerations about the future of academic publishing, fair knowledge distribution, and maintaining a balance between accessibility and research integrity in the sharing of federally funded research.

Stay tuned to COSSA’s continued coverage on open access.

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