Research Sponsor Policies and Related Legislation

Publication Policies of Major Research Funders:

NIH Public Access Policy – Becomes Mandate in 2007

On December 26, 2007, President Bush signed a spending bill that requires the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) to mandate open online access to all research it funds.

This is the first mandate for a major public funding agency in the US that requires research to be openly available; it changes the 2005 NIH Public Access Policy, which requested, but did not require, open access to NIH-funded research.

Pub Med CentralThe new language stipulates that investigators funded by the NIH submit their peer-reviewed manuscripts to the National Library of Medicine's open access repository PubMed Central when the manuscript is accepted for publication. The manuscript would then become openly available via PubMed Central within 12 months of publication in a journal. The policy will be implemented in a manner consistent with copyright law.

NIH Logo

The mandate will apply to a vast amount of research. Aside from classified military research, the NIH is the world's largest funder of scientific research, with a 2007 budget of $28 billion. According to open access commentator Peter Suber, NIH research funds 65,000 peer-reviewed articles every year or 178 every day.

More Background:

Whitehouse Office of Science and Technology Policy Directive

On February 22, 2013, The White House issued a directive that requires Federal agencies with annual spending of more than $100M in Research & Development to develop plans to make the publications that flow from the research they fund openly available to the public within a year of publication.

The directive, which took effect immediately, was announced in a policy memorandum issued by the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). OSTP had been evaluating the need for more open access to federally funded research for some time, having collected public comments in 2010 and 2012 The White House also received a “We the People” petition that reached the level requiring an official response.

This White House directive affects more federal agencies than Fair Access to Science and Technology Research, the open access bill that was introduced into both houses of Congress on February 14. Starting February 22, 2013, the Federal agencies have six months to develop policies for making both scientific publications and data openly accessible to the public. Publications must be openly accessible within 12 months of publication.

For more information:
Peter Suber’s blog post

Howard Hughes Medical Institute [HHMI] Public Access Publishing Policy

The HHMI announced on June 26, 2007 that it will require its scientists to publish their original research articles in scientific journals that allow the articles and supplementary materials to be made freely accessible in a public repository within six months of publication.

The policy applies to all manuscripts submitted by HHMI scientists on or after January 1, 2008.

More details.

National Center for Atmospheric Research Open Access Policy

The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), a national lab, passed an Open Access policy in October, 2009, that requires that all peer-reviewed research published by its scientists and staff in scientific journals be made publicly available online through its institutional repository.

NCAR is sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and is the first of the NSF's Federally Funded Research and Development Centers to adopt an OA mandate.

More information:

Fair Access to Science and Technology Research

FASTR, or Fair Access to Science and Technology Research, was introduced into both houses of Congress on February 14, 2013. The bill builds upon the success of the NIH Public Access Policy by extending public access to research funded by other U.S. government agencies. It was introduced in the Senate by John Cornyn (R-TX) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), and in the House by Mike Doyle (D-PA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), and Kevin Yoder (R-KS).

Like its predecessor bill, Federal Research Public Access Act, FASTR would provide open access to research funded by agencies of the U.S. government that spend at least $100 million per year on research, and carry this out through having authors provide their peer-reviewed manuscripts through open access repositories within six months. In both bills, repositories could be hosted by an agency, or agencies could request that authors deposit in institutional or subject-based repositories.

What is new in this bill is that it calls for common deposit procedures among agencies; for formats that enable productive reuse, such as computational analysis; and for examining the potential of open licensing for the papers, to enable reuse by the public.

The bill would create open access to research funded by agencies like the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Transportation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Science Foundation.

For more information:
Peter Suber’s blog story
Peter Suber’s FASTR reference page
Text of the bill

Federal Research Public Access Act

UPDATE: FRPAA was introduced on April 15, 2010 in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA) and a bi-partisan host of co-sponsors. More Info. A strengthened version of this bill has been introduced into both houses of Congress in February 2013. (See above under Fair Access to Science and Technology Research.)

FRPAA is a bipartisan effort to increase tax payers' access to federally funded research. The Act would require that manuscripts of journal articles stemming from grants made by US government agencies funding more than $100 million in research annually be available openly on the internet – without payment or subscription barriers – within six months of publication elsewhere in a peer-reviewed journal. This legislation was first introduced to the Senate on May 2, 2006 by Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Joe Lieberman (D-CT, now I-CT) and was re-introduced by the same sponsors in June 2009.

The Act would also require that the manuscripts be preserved in a digital archive maintained by the funding agency, or in another suitable repository that permits free public access, interoperability, and long-term preservation.

Eleven government agencies would be affected: The Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health & Human Services, Homeland Security, and Transportation, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the National Science Foundation. (Only nonclassified research is covered by the Act.)

FRPAA is consistent with existing copyright and patent laws; the funding agency would need to obtain a non-exclusive right to disseminate manuscripts resulting from their grant funds. Researchers accepting funding from these agencies would need to avoid transferring exclusive rights to publishers of their journal articles, to allow for public dissemination in accordance with this Act.

For more information on FRPAA:

Threat to public access efforts: A bipartisan bill, The Research Works Act, which was introduced into the House of Representatives in December 2011, would not only undermine the goal of FRPAA to expand public access beyond NIH-funded research, but would forbid the NIH from continuing to require public access to articles based on research it funds.

See: Research Bought, Then Paid For

IES Mandate

The Institute of Education Sciences (IES), part of the US Department of Education, has an open access mandate for IES-funded research. The mandate operates similarly to that of NIH, in that the author's final version of the manuscript must be deposited, and there can be up to a 12-month delay before it is made available. The difference is that deposits go to the Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC) rather than PubMedCentral.

More information is available from Peter Suber's summary.

Open Access Mandates in the UK, Europe, and Canada

Wellcome Trust (UK)

The Wellcome Trust, an independent charity that funds research to improve human and animal health, is the largest private funder of medical research in the UK. In October, 2005, it became first research funding agency in the world to require open access to all publications resulting from its grants.

The Wellcome Trust position statement in support of open and unrestricted access to published research requires that any research papers that have been accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal, and are supported in whole or in part by Wellcome Trust funding, to be deposited into PubMed Central (PMC) or UK PMC once established, to be made freely available as soon as possible and in any event within six months of the journal publisher's official date of final publication.

The policy is also significant in its clear statement that an author's obligations to the Wellcome Trust pre-date and take precedence over any agreement with a journal. Papers submitted for publication on or after October 1, 2006 must be submitted to journals that have a Wellcome Trust compliant publishing policy.

The position statement also includes an expectation that authors where possible retain their copyright and guarantees funding to cover page processing charges authors may face when working with publishers who support the open access model.

Research Councils (UK)

In July 2012 the Research Councils in the UK announced a new Open Access policy. Building on open access mandates previously adopted, the new policy, which takes effect in April 2013, requires that peer reviewed papers that report on research funded by the Research Councils must be made openly available within six (or for two Councils, 12) months of publication, and must include a statement on how the underlying research materials such as data, samples or models can be accessed.

The Research Councils provide a significant portion of publicly funded research in the UK.

European Commission:

In July 2012, The European Commission committed to making open access to scientific publications “a general principle of Horizon 2020, the EU’s Research & Innovation funding programme for 2014-2020.” As of 2014, all articles produced with funding from Horizon 2020 will have to be openly accessible, either through immediate open access by the publisher (with publication costs potentially eligible for reimbursement by the European Commission); or through an open access repository no later than six months (12 months for articles in the fields of social sciences and humanities) after publication. The goal is for 60% of European publicly-funded research articles to be available under open access by 2016.

In addition, the following European research funding organizations are among those which have established Open Access mandates or recommendations:


  • The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) announced a new open access policy that takes effect January 1, 2008. It requires those receiving grant funds from CIHR to make every effort to ensure their research articles are made freely available within six months of publication.

Summaries of Research Funders' Open Access Policies: