FYI: Science Policy News
FYI
/
Article

OSTP Updates Financial Analysis of Public Access Policy

JUL 03, 2024
The White House reiterates that data limitations present challenges to estimating costs of its impending requirement for free public access to the results of federally funded research.
lindsay-mckenzie-2.jpg
Science Policy Reporter, FYI American Institute of Physics
Abstract shot of open journals on table. Macro shot with shallow DOF

Stock image of open journals.

Mordolff/Getty Images

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy has made another attempt to answer questions about the implications of removing paywalls from all federally funded research, publishing an updated financial analysis report last week.

This is the third report that Congress has asked OSTP to produce on the potential funding mechanisms available to support the office’s planned public access mandate, which will require all science agencies to ensure the research they fund is free for anyone to read at the time of publication.

The latest report reiterates the challenges OSTP has faced in calculating open access fees such as article processing charges (APCs).

“True APC expenditure records rest with the authors that pay these fees and the publishers that invoice them,” the report states. These records are “neither publicly reported by publishers nor systematically reported to funders by researchers or their institutions,” it adds.

The report also states that most publishers do not disclose how much it costs them to take each article through the peer review process to final publication. “This lack of transparency in the relationship between APCs and production costs makes it difficult to project whether and how APCs may increase or decrease over time,” it states.

OSTP concludes that in the time since its last report in November 2023, the “data needs have not been met” to better calculate open access fees. Nevertheless, OSTP extends its original analysis to cover estimated APCs incurred in 2022 for federally funded research, finding they ranged from $318 million to $399 million for that year, depending on the bibliographic database used. OSTP estimates the proportion of total federal R&D expenditures that are spent on APCs is between 0.09% and 0.25%.

OSTP’s first report on this topic, published in 2022, estimated that the government was spending between $390 million and $789 million on open access publishing annually. The 2023 report calculated how much federal agencies and grantees spend annually on APCs, estimating that those fees rose from a total of around $272 million in 2016 to $379 million in 2021. In the updated estimates included in the latest OSTP report, these figures were revised to $281 million in 2016 and $408 million in 2021.

The latest report responds to a tasking from congressional appropriators. Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee originally pushed to prohibit OSTP from implementing the public access policy entirely, calling it an “unfunded mandate” that was issued without “serious financial analysis.” The prohibition was removed in the final negotiations over the appropriations legislation for fiscal year 2024, which instead directed OSTP to produce an “in-depth financial analysis” of the policy within 100 days or pause its implementation. OSTP was also instructed to assess the policy’s “anticipated impact on federal research investments, research integrity, and the peer review process”

House Republicans have again moved to block the policy, including language in the draft FY25 appropriations bill that would prevent OSTP from using any funds to “implement, administer, apply, enforce, or carry out” the policy.

The House and Senate appropriations committees did not respond to requests for comment on OSTP’s latest report.

Meanwhile, federal agencies are pushing ahead with producing their public access plans ahead of the mandatory implementation in 2026. For example, public comment on the National Institutes of Health’s draft public access plan is open until Aug. 19.

Disclosure: FYI is a publication of the American Institute of Physics, a non-profit federation of scientific societies. AIP is partially supported by revenue generated from AIP Publishing, a wholly owned but independently operated subsidiary that produces scientific journals.

Related Topics
More from FYI
FYI
/
Article
FYI
/
Article
The ADVANCE Act reinforces the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s decision to use more-relaxed licensing requirements for near-term fusion systems compared to fission systems.
FYI
/
Article
Among the 12 awardees are a Colorado-based quantum hub and a Montana-based photonic sensor hub.
FYI
/
Article
The action is the latest in the administration’s push to improve the accuracy of data on methane emissions.
FYI
/
Article
House Republicans are arguing NIH should be overhauled to streamline its operations and rebuild public trust in science.

Related Organizations