Open Access Policy in the USA

As well as having the highest output of open access research, the USA is leading open access policy with its commitment to making all federally funded research open access by the end of 2025. This policy, reflecting the USA’s commitment, may “radically change the academic publishing industry”.

The term “public access” is often used in US governmental writing. However, this is just a variation of “open access”. Here, we outline the history of the USA government’s mandates and its current policies for those looking to submit their research or to read it.

Open access is the new paradigm

Open access refers to a publishing model for scholarly research that makes information immediately available to readers at no cost. The research is often free to reuse for scholarly purposes.

The benefits of publishing open access include more citations and a greater impact, reaching a wider audience, advancing scientific innovation, retaining copyrights, and increasing the potential for collaboration and recognition. Additionally, open access can also help institutions like universities and research agencies in low- and middle-income countries by removing any price barriers to academic research.

History of open access in the USA

The USA has gradually increased its requirements for open access publishing. Here is a brief history of open access in the USA:

Current open access laws in the USA

In 2022, the White House released a memorandum that announced that all US-funded research must be made open access by the end of 2025. Basically, this encompasses three instructions:

  • Update public access policies as soon as possible, no later than the end of 2025, “to make publications and their supporting data resulting from federally funded research publicly accessible without an embargo on their free and public release”.
  • “Establish transparent procedures that ensure scientific and research integrity is maintained in public access policies”.
  • “Coordinate with [the Office of Science and Technology Policy] to ensure equitable delivery of federally funded research results and data”.

This builds on the 2013 memorandum and lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic. When federally funded research is available to the public, it can improve lives, help policymakers with decision-making, accelerate scientific discovery and translation, and drive more equitable outcomes across society.

However, research must be available “not just in moments of crisis, but in every moment” and “for all areas of study”.

This slightly differs from cOAlition S, as the European initiative imposes the additional requirement that publishers give up copyright to the work.

Researchers can satisfy the requirements of this effective mandate by publishing in an open access journal or by depositing an “almost-final, peer-reviewed, and accepted version into a public depository or other agency-approved outlet”.

Statistics for open access in the USA

The USA has seen a steady decline in articles published as subscription-only and an increase in those published as open access. Here are some statistics from Scopus:

  • 2011: 66% of articles were subscription-only, 19% were green open access, and 5% were gold open access.
  • 2016: 51% of articles were subscription-only, 16% were green open access, and 14% were gold open access.
  • 2021: 44% of articles were subscription-only, 18% were green open access, and 28% were gold open access.

Evidently, subscription-only articles decreased by over 20% over the 10-year period, while gold open access conversely increased by the same amount. Meanwhile, green open access remains consistent. Between 2017 and 2020 alone, the United States published 1.43 million academic papers in an open access format.

Future trends

Open access policy will likely remain important in US policy. This is because open access directly contributes to the government’s “collective goals of accelerating scientific discovery, strengthening translation and policymaking, and lowering the barriers of access for all of America”.

Value of open access

All articles published by MDPI are made immediately available worldwide under an open access license. This means:

  • Everyone has free and unlimited access to the full text of all articles published in MDPI journals;
  • Everyone is free to re-use the published material if proper accreditation/citation of the original publication is given;
  • Open access publication is supported by the authors’ institutes or research funding agencies by payment of a comparatively low Article Processing Charge (APC) for accepted articles.

Publishing your work in an MDPI journal would ensure it complies with the USA’s open access policy. Alternatively, if you want to publish an early version of your article, try Preprints, our service for publishing early versions of research that are not peer-reviewed and report on either ongoing or complete research.

Open access makes vital information accessible to all readers and researchers and brings together scholars from across the world. Thus, it is ideal for tackling global challenges such as climate change and cancer research that require urgent and coordinated attention.

Evidently, the USA is leading open access policy. Also, click here if you want to learn more about Open Access around the world.