US government reveals big changes to open-access policy

Read the full story in Nature.

The new policy recommends that federal agencies ensure that research from their grant recipients is made available in a public repository without delay after publication…

In theory, focusing on public repositories that can house the accepted, peer-reviewed versions of papers allows journals to continue charging institutions subscription fees and keeping final papers behind a paywall. In practice, eliminating the 12-month delay before US research is made open might change that, if publishers fear losing subscription income. “This will help accelerate the momentum toward flipping the system to where journals are fully open access,” says Lisa Hinchliffe, a librarian at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign.

It’s unclear whether US funding agencies or libraries would offer to increase their help for researchers who need to cover the up-front per-paper fees for OA publishing in most journals. A separate OSTP analysis on the economics of the US public-access policy, also released on 25 August, notes that the NIH and National Science Foundation (NSF) currently cover these costs. The OSTP estimates that such publication charges amount to about 0.5% of the NIH research budget at present. But research libraries pay much more: their expenditure on public access ranges from 0.2% to 11% of their budgets.

Kiley expects an ecosystem of mixed business models to emerge: some journals will adopt models that avoid charging authors per-paper fees, such as bulk contracts with libraries.

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