Harvard Library Applauds New White House Policy Guidelines Expanding Research Access

Harvard Library applauded a major advance for research this week, as the White House issued new policy guidelines that will expand public access to taxpayer-funded research. The new guidelines, released by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), dovetail with open access principles that Harvard Library leaders have championed for two decades.

Peter Suber, Harvard Library’s Senior Advisor on Open Access, said policies from research funding agencies are critical to the advance of open access. “Funder policies influence author decisions, and hence publisher decisions, more than any other kind of open access policy,” he explained.

Vice President for the Harvard Library and University Librarian Martha Whitehead lauded the new guidelines for an even stronger commitment to open access than the 2013 guidelines. 

“Removing access barriers for both readers and authors makes scholarly communication more inclusive and equitable,” Whitehead said. “Open access, as a philosophy and a practice, is so important for the future of research.”

Suber added that it was gratifying to see how the guidelines released last week have much in common with Harvard’s own approach since 2008 – centering policies on deposit in open access repositories rather than publication in open access journals (‘green’ rather than ‘gold’ open access). 

The new policy guidelines represent at least three significant changes from the 2013 guidelines. They eliminate the currently permissible embargoes that delay public access to publicly-funded research by up to one year. They extend the scope of the policies to cover research data in addition to peer-reviewed research articles, and they apply to all federal funding agencies, not just the largest. 

At Harvard, most researchers with federal research grants are already covered by existing policies and have already been depositing peer-reviewed articles or data in open access repositories. Going forward, they’ll be joined by peers who are funded by smaller government agencies, and all of this research will be available from the time of publication.   

Whitehead, who authored a statement on Harvard Library’s commitment to open access in 2019, said the OSTP guidelines promoting open access will benefit the entire research community as well as the public.

“Open access increases research use and reuse, helps readers find and read the research they need, and helps authors maximize their audience and impact,” she said. “It also decreases the cost of distributing research and, by exposing research to more people from more perspectives, increases trust in research.”

Suber expressed gratitude to President Joe Biden and OSTP Director Dr. Alondra Nelson, “on behalf of all at Harvard who benefit from public access to publicly-funded research,” and said Harvard Library looks forward to more details once specific funding agencies write or update their policies.

“We are willing to work with any agency on policies that will comply with the guidelines, advance research, and simplify implementation for research institutions,” he said.