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PLOS cheers the OSTP memorandum “Ensuring Free, Immediate, and Equitable Access to Federally Funded Research”

We were thrilled last Thursday to read Dr. Alondra Nelson’s United States Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) memorandum on the subject of “Ensuring Free, Immediate, and Equitable Access to Federally Funded Research.” 

The vision expressed in the memo represents a tremendous step toward the future of scientific research communication that PLOS has been working toward since our founding in 2001. It truly is a watershed moment for the US research community and everyone who has a stake in scientific communications.

The memo requires US federal granting bodies to develop and implement new policies making all tax-payer funded scholarly research and underlying raw data freely and publicly available without embargo by 2026. Importantly, the guidance applies to all federal agencies with R&D expenditures, regardless of budget size or the subject area of the research being funded.

In the coming weeks and months, we will consider and expand on what this memo, and other policy advancements around the world, mean for Open Scholarship and Open Science, and how we can all play our part. 

For now, we want to confirm that publishing in any PLOS journal already meets or exceeds the requirements outlined in the OSTP memo. Here’s how:

Free public access to scholarly publications

“Federal agencies should update or develop new public access plans for ensuring…that all peer-reviewed scholarly publications authored or coauthored by individuals or institutions resulting from federally funded research are made freely available and publicly accessible by default in agency-designated repositories without any embargo or delay after publication. (emphasis in the original) p. 3

PLOS is and always has been a fully Open Access publisher. Everything we publish is available under a CC BY copyright license. That means the research is not only publicly accessible—it’s also freely available for redistribution, remixing, and reuse.

PLOS began publishing journals precisely to provide venues that would lead this kind of transformation in science communication. You might even say we were born for this moment. We helped catalyze a change in scholarly publishing when we launched PLOS Biology in 2003. Since then, we’ve expanded our portfolio to include 12 journals serving researchers in all areas of science and medicine to make all high quality and impactful research openly accessible to everyone.

No delays or embargos

“OSTP recommends that federal agencies…make publications and their supporting data resulting from federally funded research publicly accessible without an embargo on their free and public release.” (emphasis in the original) p. 1

At PLOS, everything we publish is freely available for anyone, anywhere in the world to read, cite, share, or iterate upon, right from the very start.

We’ve always believed knowledge should be available to all without barriers. PLOS publishes research that meets the highest standards of methodological and ethical rigor, without restrictions, delays, or reader fees. We also support preprint-posting across each of our journals so you can make your work available as soon as you’re ready.

Machine readable

Federal agencies should aim “to maximize equitable reach of public access to peer-reviewed scholarly publications, including by providing free online access to peer-reviewed scholarly publications in formats that allow for machine-readability.” p. 3-4

All PLOS articles and published peer reviews are fully machine readable, indexed, and archived to enhance discoverability, and enable further parsing, cross-referencing, processing, and analysis. Plus, our entire corpus is available for download through the AllofPLOS project in order to facilitate meta-analysis of the research we publish, and meta-research into publishing patterns.

Public data

“Scientific data underlying peer-reviewed scholarly publications resulting from federally funded research should be made freely available and publicly accessible by default at the time of publication” p. 4

Since 2014, PLOS’ Data Availability policy has required that the raw data underlying each study we publish be made publicly available upon publication.

Readers rely on raw scientific data to enhance their understanding of published research. Data are key for verification, replication and reanalysis, to inform future investigations, and to inform systematic reviews or meta-analyses. Demonstrating that level of transparency with the research community signals integrity and inspires trust in return.

Research integrity through metadata

“Federal agencies should take actions to ensure that these elements of scientific and research integrity are in place in order to strengthen public trust in federally funded science…The public should be able to identify which federal agencies support given investments in science, the scientists who conduct that research, and the extent to which peer-review was conducted.” p. 5-6

PLOS prominently displays data availability, funding, and competing interest statements on each article we publish. We use ORCID IDs to identify and distinguish individual researchers, and the CRediT classification system to describe each author’s specific contributions to the work. DOIs and sub-DOIs make it easy to cite our articles, figures, and datasets, as well as the associated Published Peer Review History. Our partnerships, together with our archival and indexing standards enable bi-directional linking to and from each article, and its related research products on other sites, including preprints, Open Data, Open Methods, Open Code.

Moving Open Science beyond APCs

Of course, we recognize a transition to OA publication comes with many other considerations for researchers who have not done so before. The features above are embedded in our journals and publishing process to make it as easy as possible for authors, and we are always working with research communities to improve. 

In particular, we acknowledge Article Processing Charges (APCs) pose a barrier for many researchers and we are experimenting with new business models designed to reflect the true cost of publication, and to allocate costs more fairly, making Open Access publishing accessible to everyone.

PLOS already has partnerships with many US institutions to make the cost of publishing free for those researchers. Check our list of partner institutions to see if your institution has an existing agreement. We are always reaching out to new institutions to expand coverage for authors. If you don’t see your institution here already, please fill out this form

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