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ASBMB urges OSTP to engage stakeholders in open-access planning

Aswathy Rai
Nov. 8, 2022

The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology offered its expertise to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy in a statement last month responding to an Oct. 18 letter in which the U.S. House Committee of Science, Space and Technology raised concerns about the challenges of and next steps for making all publicly funded research open access. 

The ASBMB statement, released Oct. 24, reiterated the society’s support for open access and echoed its previously stated concerns about potential downstream effects. The ASBMB wrote: “The organization supports making publications resulting from publicly funded research accessible to all without embargo. In fact, doing so is essential for scientific advancement. However, switching to open access will be costly to publishers, and many are likely to offload that price tag onto their scientists, who already are facing financial constraints while running their labs and supporting the next generation of scientists." 

On Aug. 25, Alondra Nelson, then the acting head of the OSTP, issued a memo with three significant updates on open-access policies for federally funded research. The memo — titled “Ensuring Free, Immediate and Equitable Access to Federally Funded Research” — told science-funding agencies to implement public access plans before the end of 2023 and expand the minimum data-sharing expectations from federally funded research.  

The Oct. 18 letter — addressed to the new OSTP chief, Arati Prabhakar — from the House committee states: “(T)he memorandum is short on details of how the new requirements will be implemented, including how agencies will update their own policies and collaborate with stakeholders to ensure smooth implementation and address new challenges with who can afford to submit their research for publication, or how to ensure the quality of research publications. We are further concerned about the lack of detail with respect to the requirements for digital data. Making data accessible in a way that is truly useful to advance science has always been a more difficult technical, cultural, and economic challenge than making publications available.” 

The committee suggested holding another round of stakeholder engagement and public workshops in the following months. 

The ASBMB publishes three gold open-access journals and in September expressed concern about the cost of publication becoming prohibitive for some authors. In its most recent statement, the society expressed support for the committee’s recommendations, writing, “We urge the OSTP to engage with us and other stakeholders who can provide vital input to ensure an equitable and smooth transition to open access.”

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Aswathy Rai

Aswathy N. Rai is an assistant clinical professor and undergraduate coordinator at Mississippi State University's department of biochemistry, molecular biology, entomology and plant pathology.

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