The new US government guidelines on access to federally funded research: An overview

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The new US government guidelines on access to federally funded research: An overview

On August 25, 2022, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) of the US released a memorandum titled “Ensuring Free, Immediate, and Equitable Access to Federally Funded Research.”1 It contains various guidelines for federal agencies with research and development expenditures (e.g., National Science Foundation [NSF], National Institutes of Health [NIH]), which will come into effect by January 1, 2026. The key points of this memorandum are as follows:

  1. There is no longer an optional 12-month publication embargo for federally funded peer-reviewed research articles. In other words, scientific articles resulting from research funded by any US federal institute or agency will have to be made publicly accessible without any 12-month window during which the articles could be behind a paywall.
  2. Data published in peer-reviewed research articles should be immediately available upon publication, and other research data should be available within a reasonable timeframe. This means that scientific data underlying peer-reviewed scholarly publications will have to be made publicly available at the time of publication.

Of note, the OSTP does not mandate publishing in open access (OA) journals. Instead, federal agencies are required to ensure that peer-reviewed work from their grant recipients is made available in an agency-approved public repository. Individual agencies are allowed to develop their own protocols about how this is to be done, and these protocols have to be completed in the next six months to a year.

Further, this policy applies to scientific manuscripts where any of the authors have received federal funding for the research concerned, not just the corresponding author. And since the memorandum mentions “all peer-reviewed scholarly publications,” it will likely apply to not just journal articles but also conference proceedings, book chapters, etc.

It’s also worth noting that OSTP specifies that the peer-reviewed version of the paper needs to be publicly accessible. In other words, merely posting a pre-submitted version of the article as a preprint will not comply with the new guidelines. In addition, the publication needs to be made available in a machine-readable format, which means that other researchers or any member of the general public can utilize the research through text and data mining, computational analysis, etc.

What does this mean for researchers?

As the US government, particularly the NIH, is one of the world’s largest funders of research, the new policy will likely result in significant changes across the scientific publishing landscape. Let’s look at the possible implications for researchers:

1. Changes in information-seeking

The OSTP policy requires that articles resulting from federally funded research be made publicly accessible after peer review without any embargo. The data underlying the article also needs to be made publicly available. This can help scientists access and utilize information more quickly, as they are not limited to only those journals their institute has purchased a subscription for. The requirement for machine-readable formats, as mentioned above, also makes research more accessible and available to scientists in general.

2. Changes in data management

Researchers who receive grants from any US federal body will have to comply with the new guidelines around data sharing. This means that researchers will likely have to ensure they are following robust and rigorous data collection and analysis procedures, since their underlying data will be made public and shoddy research practices could be exposed more easily. In the long run, this policy will hopefully improve reproducibility of research and scientific integrity.

3. Changes in budgeting

With the new policy, researchers will likely be paying more attention to article-processing charges as well as the financial costs of data sharing. An OSTP blogpost specified that the new policy allows researchers to include publication and data-sharing costs in their research budget proposals.2 It also mentions support for more vulnerable researchers who might not be able to pay the rising costs associated with publishing open access articles, such as early career researchers and those from minority-serving institutions.


The new OSTP policy is a boost for the growing international movement to make scientific research publicly available, a movement that has long been synonymous with Plan S and cOAlition S. It’s still too early to say, but we can expect a significant transformation of the academic publishing landscape over the next decade, especially if this policy spurs similar efforts from the governments of other countries.



  1. Office of Science and Technology Policy. Ensuring Free, Immediate, and Equitable Access to Federally Funded Research. (2022).
  2. Marcum, C.S., Donohue, R. Breakthroughs for All: Delivering Equitable Access to America’s Research. (2022).

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Published on: Sep 09, 2022

An editor at heart and perfectionist by disposition, providing solutions for journals, publishers, and universities in areas like alt-text writing and publication consultancy.
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