New OSTP Guidance Alleviates Cost Burden of Accessing Research

In late August, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) made a major update to their guidance regarding federally funded research. On August 25, 2022, The OSTP sent out a memorandum with the subject “Ensuring Free, Immediate, and Equitable Access to Federally Funded Research” outlining the new policy. These changes will give the public speedy access to new studies and scientific information as it is published.  

What will change with the new OSTP guidance?  

Previously, access to federally funded research and findings was dictated by the Memorandum on Increasing Access to the Results of Federally Funded Research, which was published in 2013. This memorandum stated that federal agencies that spend over 100 million dollars annually on research must create a plan to increase public access to their findings. This initial ruling was successful, and over the last decade, over 8 million new articles have become available to the public.  

One of the biggest issues stemming from the original 2013 memorandum is that it allowed agencies a 12-month embargo period when it came to publishing the findings of their research. This embargo allowed agencies to restrict who could access their findings for the first year, generally behind a pay wall, to generate revenue. While this benefitted the entities publishing their research by securing their subscription base, this also withheld studies and information from Americans who could not afford to pay the access fees. The 2022 memo will eradicate this 12-month embargo period.  

According to the new memo, “This provision has limited immediate access of federally funded research results to only those able to pay for it or who have privileged access through libraries or other institutions. Financial means and privileged access must never be the pre-requisites to realizing the benefits of federally funded research that the American public deserves.” 

How will this guidance impact my library? 

According to the White House website, all federal agencies impacted by this new guidance will comply by December 31, 2025. This will be huge for academic libraries that currently pay for journal subscriptions. Many public libraries and some school libraries pay for these subscriptions as well. This update will benefit any institution serving patrons looking for resources for research. Studies have shown that journal prices have been steadily increasing, way past true inflation. 

According to an article by the University of Missouri, “The cost of these journals often outstrips library budgets, leaving the libraries battling both price increases and revenue stagnation.” Under the new OTSP guidance, libraries will not have to subscribe to federally funded journals to access new research. This could potentially save many libraries a significant amount of money and will guarantee their patrons unfettered access to the latest research.  

President Joe Biden said, “For anyone to get access to that publication, they have to pay hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars to subscribe to a single journal. And here’s the kicker — the journal owns the data for a year. The taxpayers fund $5 billion a year in cancer research every year, but once it’s published, nearly all of that taxpayer-funded research sits behind walls. Tell me how this is moving the process along more rapidly.” 

Who will benefit from the OSTP guidance change?  

According to the White House, “This policy will likely yield significant benefits on a number of key priorities for the American people, from environmental justice to cancer breakthroughs, and from game-changing clean energy technologies to protecting civil liberties in an automated world.” 

As stated, the new OSTP guidance has the potential to greatly benefit the American people. Knowledge is power, and the timely access to new information could yield incredible results. Now, new research can be completed based on the most recent and up-to-date findings. Patrons will not be restricted to accessing the information of just the journals that their library or institution have the ability to pay for. This free flow of new information will help us to make better decisions and will set the stage for new advancements in a wide array of areas.  

To learn more about how the OSTP guidance will benefit you and your patrons, we suggest reading the 2022 Memo, the White House’s statement, and this helpful article from Library Journal.