In February, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) issued an RFI requesting comment on how public access to federally funded research could be broadened, and in parallel, conducted a series of stakeholder meetings. As a participant in two of the meetings, I sensed broad alignment among all stakeholders — commercial publishers, society publishers, university administrators, librarians, faculty members and funders — in affirming their support of open access. And for all of those groups, with the exception of the vast majority of publishers in the conversation, embracing that fundamental goal also translated into widely held support for a measured but meaningful step that OSTP is rumored to be contemplating: a zero embargo for an author’s accepted manuscripts. As of last week, the complete set of written responses to the OSTP RFI is now available here. To follow the ongoing debate about the OSTP RFI on Twitter, follow  #OAintheUSA.

UC has closely tracked the discussion over a possible policy change to the current public access provisions for federally funded research, and administrators, librarians and faculty have gratefully and passionately embraced the opportunity granted by OSTP to inform the process. Below, you’ll find a sampling of our collective RFI response – including statements from UC’s Academic Senate, libraries, campus administrators, individual researchers, as well as the systemwide response from UC’s Office of Research & Innovation (officially transmitted by UC President and open access champion Janet Napolitano). Below are excerpts from and links to responses from across the UC system.

UC Academic Senate [full response PDF]

“[T]he UC Academic Senate supports a zero-embargo policy for author-accepted manuscripts. The Academic Senate also affirms that such a policy represents a measured step forward, in alignment with UC’s mission to serve society and provide long-term benefits through the transmission of research and knowledge.”

UC Office of Research and Innovation [full response PDF]

“The advancement of scientific research and industry is greatly impeded when access to the latest scholarly research is published behind a paywall or only publicly released after an embargo period. To fully embrace the potential of modern collaborative research, all stakeholders, be they policy makers, doctors, journalists, entrepreneurs, community welfare organizations, researchers or citizen scientists, need immediate access to published research results. Delays to the public availability of these results slow down discoveries that can benefit all citizens.”

Bruce A. Hamilton, PhD, UC San Diego School of Medicine [full response PDF]

“Every group currently disadvantaged by the subscription model–entrepreneurs, physicians, and especially patients–are taxpayers who funded the research. Blocking or delaying their access is a drain on resources and on precious time that many patients simply do not have. As a matter of fairness, as a matter or equity, as a matter of letting Americans benefit from the research they fund, I implore you: tear down these paywalls.”

UCLA Vice Chancellor for Research, University Librarian [full response PDF]

“Over the past several months, a number of the leading science, technology, and medical publishers have made portions of their paywalled content available free to libraries and the research community, in response to the Covid-19 crisis. While this action recognizes the essential role libraries have in connecting researchers with research, it is also an explicit, if indirect, acknowledgement of the impediments to research that are routinely imposed by paywalls. Without a zero-embargo policy, once the Covid-19 crisis is over, access to the research that was done to treat and prevent it will once again become restricted.”

California Digital Library [full response PDF]

“[P]publishers can continue to thrive under business models built around this immediate public access rather than paywalled content. As of 2017, less than 15% of publications were immediately available upon publication (either published open access or available in an open access repository with no embargo). Recognizing the growing demand for public access to research, new business models are being developed as part of open access agreements between publishers and libraries, including four recent agreements established between the University of California (UC) and the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), Cambridge University Press, JMIR Publications and the Public Library of Science (PLOS).  These agreements are creating an environment in which all parties – the academy, commercial players, societies – are incentivized to make research openly available upon publication, thus leveraging their assets for the good of science and society, and doing so in a sustainable way.”  

UC Berkeley Library [full response PDF]

“We are particularly sympathetic to a tension articulated by mission-driven publishers like non- profits and learned societies. These groups may use some revenue from journal subscription sales to fund other important services for society members and the scientific community, such as conferences, instructional programming, scholarships, and awards. Were subscription sales to decline further as a result of immediate free access to certain versions of peer-reviewed journal articles, societies fear they might have less income to support these other operations. A flaw in this argument is that the loss of subscription revenue does not mean that it will not be replaced with publishing services revenue; indeed, this is precisely the model for transformative agreements advanced by the UC (and by the over 145 signatories to the OA2020 Expression of Interest). While reconfiguring a society’s business model is not insignificant, non-profit publishers have an increasing degree of support to transform their business models in ways that sustain these other public service functions.”

UC San Diego Executive Vice Chancellor, Vice Chancellor for Research, University Librarian, Academic Senate Chair, Academic Senate Vice Chair [full response PDF]

“Science is improved through peer review and the curation of publications, data and code. High quality review and sustainable scholarship requires sustained partnerships with the societies and organizations that ensure the generation, review, publication, discoverability and preservation of high-quality science. As such, UC San Diego affirms the role of scholarly societies in scholarship and believes that active partnerships with societies during this period of transition will help scholars lead the transformation to open access. A zero-embargo policy will motivate this transition to sustainable and open scholarly publishing models.”

UC Merced Academic Senate [full response PDF]

“The members of the Library and Scholarly Communications Committee (LASC) and the members of the Committee on Research (COR) of the Academic Senate at UC Merced affirm that the public should have free and immediate access to peer-reviewed findings of publicly funded research. Open access to scholarly research publications is a broadly-held value at the University of California (UC). The UC Faculty have demonstrated our strong support of open access through our 2013 Academic Senate Open Access Policy. UC faculty lead our system’s open access initiatives in partnership with the University Libraries and are critical leaders of UC’s pursuit of open access transformation of scholarly publishing.”

Laura Wennstrom Sheehan, Department of Family Medicine, UCLA [full response PDF]

“Countries in Europe, Asia and South America are adopting Open Access policies to accelerate scientific research, and the United States is falling behind. Our scientists need to quickly access critical research articles and data to continue being leaders in their fields. Not even the most well-funded campus libraries at major Universities such as my own home campus (UCLA) can afford to continue to pay subscription fees for all of the journals that their researchers require.”

Additional UC commenters include:

Prominent UC voices can also be found as co-authors of the following responses. (Page numbers refer to the OSTP-issued compilation of all responses.)

  • Coalition of Open Access Policy Institutions (COAPI), listing all 10 campuses and the CDL, p. 11
  • Society for the Improvement of Psychological Science, signed by the 10-member executive board, including Dr. Simine Vazire from UC Davis, p. 429
  • US Public Interest REsearch Group (PIRG), 10 signatories include Nicolas Riani, UCLA grad student & CalPIRG Students State Board Chair, p. 473
  • Research Software Alliance statement, Karthik Ram of UC Berkeley listed as one of 7 co-authors, p. 592
  • Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, 2 of 6 paragraphs are a quote from UC Berkeley professor Bernd Stumfels, p. 626
  • Diabetes Technology Society, signed by its president David Klonoff, Clinical Professor at UCSF, p. 629

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