Publicly Funded Research Soon Will Be Available to the Public, Without Delay

Geometric orange shapes and concentric circles and a white dollar sign on a gray background

The public typically pays twice for federal research, once to fund it and a second time to see it hidden behind paywalls in journals. A new directive will make research available sooner and without cost. (Illustration by Emily Faith Morgan, University Communications)

In just three years, the White House will require all papers describing federally funded research to be made available to the public without charge. This major shift, decades in the making, means the public will no longer have to pay twice for federal research – once to fund it, and again to see the outcome of it.

Goodbye, paywalls.

Through the University of Virginia Library and the School of Data Science, University researchers have been championing this idea – sometimes called “open scholarship” – for decades, believing research funded by the public should benefit the public, and more important, be available to the public right away.

“This announcement,” UVA President Jim Ryan said of the news from the White House, “aligns well with the history of the University of Virginia. Not only did Thomas Jefferson found the University of Virginia, but he also introduced a ‘Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge,’ which was presented to the Virginia legislature in 1779 and laid the groundwork for free public education in the U.S. Given this legacy and as a public university, we are delighted by this development.

“Ahead of White House announcement we had already formed a Universitywide Open Scholarship Working Group to educate our community on the value and the resources needed to further the mission of open scholarship,” Ryan said.

Philip Bourne stands with his arms crossed and looks at the camera
Data Science Dean Philip Bourne says he and others have been pushing for this change, and now UVA is preparing for the new White House rules. (Photo by Sanjay Suchak, University Communications).

UVA Today asked Philip Bourne, dean of the School of Data Science and a member of the working group, what this means and who will benefit.

Q. First, what is “open scholarship?

A. Open scholarship refers to making the products of scholarly activities – written materials, data, software, protocols – freely and immediately available to all. The goal is to accelerate discovery and awareness and to improve reproducibility. Among other things, the White House announcement calls on all federal agencies to eliminate the current 12-month embargo on public access to federally funded research articles.

It touches all steps of the research lifecycle, including initial grant ideas, process and material workflows, software, data generated during the process, and the final output, which typically is publication.

Q. Why is this important?

A. This is a game-changer. Data science would not exist were it not for open data and methods. It is critical in furthering our research and scholars here at the University. It promotes a culture that supports free and accessible scholarship that ultimately will help benefit citizens and our global society.

Q. When does this go into effect? How will it affect UVA?

A. Federal agencies have until the end of 2025 to comply.

Provost Ian Baucom said, “Free and open access to scholarly research is aligned with our institutional mission and values,” and he’s exactly right. At the core of all of UVA’s research –not only here at the School of Data Science, but across all of the University’s schools – is to make the world a better place. In fact, the Faculty Senate approved guidelines for all the schools “to maximize the impact of our research and the recognition of our scholars.”

Illustration of a Rotunda on a microphone
Illustration of a Rotunda on a microphone

That important work can’t happen if big ideas and groundbreaking research are kept from the public. Having said that, we must also account for factors like privacy, intellectual property and the cultural norms of different disciplines.

Q. What happens next?

A. The next step is to move the guidelines toward a University open scholarship policy and recommend resources needed to ensure the policy’s success. The working group is aiming to provide faculty with the tools to assess the requirements and the impact of these new developments on their own scholarship.

Longer term, we will all be better off. The White House’s Office of Science & Technology Policy said, “This policy will likely yield significant benefits on a number of key priorities for the American people, from environmental justice to cancer breakthroughs, and from game-changing clean energy technologies to protecting civil liberties in an automated world.”

Bottom line, this is exciting now and will be even more exciting in the future.

The first open meeting to discuss the White House directive will take place on Oct. 24, from noon to 2 p.m., in the Harrison Small Auditorium. Details to follow.

Media Contact

Mike Mather

Managing Editor University Communications