ASBMB statement on OSTP memo on access to federally funded research

Sept. 2, 2022

The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology supports the White House Office of Science and Technology’s recommendation, issued in a memorandum on Aug. 25, that federal agencies, as soon as possible, make publications resulting from public funding accessible to all without embargo.
The ASBMB publishes three fully open-access, peer-reviewed journals: the Journal of Biological Chemistry, the Journal of Lipid Research, and Molecular & Cellular Proteomics.

“While making research publicly accessible is essential for scientific advancement and the right thing to do, it requires a complete overhaul of publishing systems, processes and business models,” Stephen Miller, ASBMB’s executive director, said. “ASBMB journals have been ‘gold’ open access for almost two years now. It has been a costly and complicated transition, but we are committed to always innovating to meet the needs of the community.”

Like a lot of other publishers, for many years the society made accepted manuscripts immediately available for free as Papers in Press, but embargoed the final redacted versions of articles for subscribers for a single year. In addition, authors had the option to pay an additional fee for immediate open access of the final version of a paper or to upload the accepted version for free to a public repository. However, the society’s members, in line with the broader scientific community, called for immediate and free public access to research published in ASBMB journals in order to reduce barriers to scientific knowledge and accelerate discoveries. As a result, all three journals became “gold” open access in January 2021.

OSTP and federal agencies are well aware that switching to open access will be difficult and costly for publishers and that many publishers are likely to offload that price tag onto their authors. We encourage OSTP to provide as much guidance as possible to the scientific community and best practice recommendations to federal agencies to make this transition as soon as possible.

At the same time, the cost of actually doing science is on rise. Scientists are struggling to keep their labs running; graduate students and postdoctoral researchers need a livable wage; and lab supplies are becoming more expensive. Meanwhile, federal grants have only half of the spending power they had 20 years ago. Open access places another financial burden on scientists. Policymakers must address this challenge.

Article publishing/processing fees (APC) incurred by authors, and usually paid for with taxpayer-funded research grants, vary from journal to journal and can often be quite high. The average cost is between $3,500 and $4,000 per article under the subscription model; open-access articles are often far more expensive. Some cost up to $11,500. The ASBMB has prioritized keeping its APC fees low to minimize financial barriers as much as we can, but it’s a challenge.  To offset financial barriers, we also offer grants, waivers and discounts when needed and applicable. We must do everything we can to ensure equitable exposure of scientific research to improve diversity and equity in the scientific community.

OSTP’s memo is a leap forward in ensuring that science is available to the American public and others; however, Congress must address the consequences of this policy change. Federal grants must grow to accommodate the rising cost of conducting and publishing science.